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NASA Scientist Weighs In on Solar Eclipse Do's and Don'ts

NASA Scientist Weighs In on Solar Eclipse Do's and Don'ts Read Transcript

We are less than a week from a major event in the skies.

A total solar eclipse will happen August 21.

Astrophysicists say this is an occasion when

we should put down our smartphones

and experience this historic event.

Joining me now to talk about the eclipse

is NASA scientist Jim Garvin.

So the anticipated solar eclipse is just days away.

What will we experience next week?

It's going to be spectacular.

Really, this is a once in a century

kind of event across the whole United States from Oregon

to South Carolina.

Here in the DC area, we'll have a blocking of nearly 20%

of the--

a blocking of nearly 80% of the sun.

And so night will come during midday, roughly around 2:42 PM,

and due to the passage of the moon

between the sun and the Earth.

And this kind of eclipse, the last one

of this magnitude in our neighborhood

was nearly 100 years ago.

These are special events that allow

us to appreciate how space works,

how the dance of our sun, moon, Earth system

tells us about the outer atmosphere of the sun

and even how the Earth's atmosphere responds.

So exciting times.

Exciting indeed.

Now, we have been told never to look directly at the sun,

even with sunglasses.

So how can we enjoy this eclipse safely?

Well, you need the special glasses.

These are-- whoop-- really dark.

100,000 times or more--

I lost you there--

100,000 times or more darker than your sunglasses.

These are protective glasses.

You can get them at local science museums, stores,


They're available in some places from NASA centers.

And they allow you to observe that--

this solar eclipse safely.

Please don't observe it without them.

You can also do an indirect experiment

by punching a hole in a piece of paper.

And you can watch through the--

what comes through the hole when the eclipse gets up to, well,

81% in the DC area.

You can see the little experiment there on the screen.

So there's different ways of participating.

Those are two safe ways.

You can make a box-type viewing device

where you can look down and see the shadow of the sun being

blocked by the moon as well.

So lots of safe ways to do it.

Now, for those in the path of totality,

when is it safe to finally take off our solar glasses?

Well, you'll know when it's totally dark,

because if you're wearing the glasses, you'll see nothing.

And the sun will go totally dark.

And there will be a short period of time, two minutes or so,

with totality.

That will not be in the Washington area.

It'll extend from Oregon through the Midwest and Wyoming,

Nebraska, across Missouri, Kentucky,

and then into South Carolina and northern Georgia.

In those places, you will be able to do it.

The rest of the country, you need the glasses.

Be safe.

So now, for those not in the path of totality,

what interesting things should we be looking for?

Well, wearing the glasses or watching

the sun under the leaves of trees, for example,

you'll see beautiful patterns of little mini suns, little arcs.

You'll be able to watch on a piece of paper with your device


There's the pattern of the sun through the leaves,

the filtering of the leaves as a blocking agent.

Beautiful patterns.

Mother Nature making art from an eclipse.

And if you're wearing the glasses,

you'll be able to see the sort of Pac-Man sun

as the moon goes in front of it.

And we use that as a science event,

but it's just really a very special transformative event

for people, to feel the power of these objects in space.

I can hear in your voice excitement.

So what is it about this that makes it so exciting?

It's because we live in space.

And to see how our parent home sun, our sun,

is affected by our rather exciting moon is spectacular.

Watching the sun work and how it affects space weather, which

affects our lives here on Earth, is really spectacular.

And we study that here at NASA.

So do other agencies in the United States

and around the world.

And making and living with our parent sun

is a special part of who we are here on planet Earth.

Where can we go to learn more as we anticipate this coming?

So we have a website

There's others you can Google.

There is a citizen sciences program called CATE,

where you can actually contribute observations.

But go to the websites.

Watch online.

Get involved.

It's just one of those special events that

really makes us all excited.

NEWS ANCHOR: Real quick.

Where will you be watching from?

Well, I'll be here at NASA--

I've been lucky enough to be here for a long time--

and watching through the eyes of our satellites.

We'll be actually looking back from the moon

at the Earth with our Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

that's been there for the last nine-plus years.

So we'll be doing our thing in space as this event touches all

of us here on the ground.

NEWS ANCHOR: All right, scientist Jim Garvin.

Thank you so much for your time.

Much appreciate it.


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