Every now and then, the moon passes between the earth and sun, blocking all—or part—of our solar system's favorite star.
On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will bear witness to an eclipse of the sun. While the path of totality—where the moon will completely cover the sun—excludes West Michigan, our region is still privy to a partial eclipse of the sun.
Turn around, West Michigan! Here's what you need to know.
Why is this so cool?
According to NASA, the last time the contiguous United States saw a total eclipse was in 1979—it's been 38 long years! The next North American total solar eclipse will be in 2024.
How do you safely view the eclipse?
Most people know better than to stare at the sun on a day-to-day basis, but solar eclipses are such rare events everyone wants to actually see them when they occur.
The light of the sun, however, is so strong that, if you stare it, the lens in your eye concentrates a spot of sunlight on your retina—killing cells. This goes for eclipses, too. Even if you think you're fine, you're probably not. It usually takes several hours for symptoms to manifest. By then, the damage is done.
Don't let all the "DANGER" hype deter you from enjoying the celestial phenomenon, however. Optimize your viewing experience by following these safety tips:
1. Don't look into the light.
Looking directly at the sun during an eclipse is unsafe, except during the brief phase of totality. Since West Michigan will only witness a partial solar eclipse, the only safe way to look directly at the sun is through special-purpose solar filters or handheld solar viewers.
Earlier this week, Amazon recalled eclipse glasses sold on its marketplace, citing that it was unable to confirm whether the protective ware was made by a recommended manufacturer. Click here for a list of reputable vendors, recommended by NASA and the American Astronomical Society.
2. Ordinary sunglasses won't cut it.
You absolutely, 100 percent, need certified eclipse glasses.
3. Don't look at the partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical advice.
Also, don't look through these things while using your eclipse glasses or solar viewers—the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eyes. If you're planning on photographing the eclipse, seek expert advice from an astronomer.
4. Don't stare continuously at the sun.
Take breaks and let your eyes rest.
So ... Where do you watch the eclipse?
You can watch the eclipse anywhere!
If you're traveling, maybe you're lucky enough to be in the path of totality, which runs from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina.
If you're still in town, the Grand Rapids Public Museum is throwing an Eclipse Party, complete with hands-on activities for kids and safe eclipse viewing. The party runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and includes a meal deal, live stream of the total eclipse in the Meijer Theater, and multiple shows of Eclipses and Phases of the Moon in the Chaffee Planetarium. You can purchase tickets online at grpm.org.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for West Michigan Woman.