Solar Eclipse Safety Reminders

On April 8 there will be a solar eclipse in North America, an astronomical event in which the sun, moon and earth align, causing a unique occurrence of mid-day light being obstructed. This celestial event won’t happen in the United States again until 2044, and many Michiganders are planning to watch and enjoy the experience.

U-M campuses will experience a partial eclipse, as opposed to locations who are in the path of totality, where people will experience complete mid-day darkness. Michigan’s eclipse experience is expected to begin around 2 p.m., with maximum sun coverage happening around 3:13 p.m.

If you’re planning on watching the eclipse, there are safety considerations to be aware of that are imperative. Please review the safety tips below, and be sure to visit the additional resources provided as well.

Solar Eclipse Safety Tips

Safety Tip #1: Protective Eye Wear Is Essential

You know that age-old tip of not looking directly at the sun? That definitely applies here. Viewing any part of the sun without protective eye gear can severely damage the eye, including causing retinal burns. According to NASA, “Except during the brief total phase of a total solar eclipse, when the Moon completely blocks the Sun’s bright face, it is not safe to look directly at the Sun without specialized eye protection for solar viewing.”

Remember that for most Michiganders, there will not be a total solar eclipse, so there is no part of the eclipse experience that should be viewed without safe solar viewing glasses, or “eclipse glasses”. Keep in mind that these glasses are not sunglasses; regular sunglasses are not safe for looking at the sun. Eclipse glasses are available through a variety of vendors, but a key element to ensure is that they have the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 12312-2 code on the inside. More information for Safe Solar Viewers can be found here.

It’s also important to note that looking at the sun through devices such as a camera lens, telescope, or binoculars is not safe as the concentrated solar rays can cause damage.

More optical safety considerations and information can be found on the NASA website.

Safety Tip #2: If traveling, be aware of potential disruptions

Millions of people are expected to travel to the path of totality to view the eclipse, which could lead to increased traffic and delays on roads. Awareness and preparation is key; if you will be traveling to the path of totality, it’s a good idea to have a plan on where to go to view, and have alternative routes to getting there.

Additionally, particularly in instances of being on the road while the eclipse is happening, people have been known to stop mid-drive or pull over to view the phenomenon. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, obey traffic laws, and to exit the roadway and safely park to view the eclipse.

During the eclipse, driving conditions could be affected due to decreased light, so use extra caution while on the road.

Travelers also need to be aware of the possibility of cellular network disruptions due to overloaded network usage, especially if joining large crowds of people in viewing locations.

Solar Eclipse Resources

If you’re at the Ann Arbor campus, join the Center for Campus Involvement’s Solar Eclipse Viewing Party on the Michigan Union front lawn from 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Viewing glasses will be provided.

Header solar eclipse image via Unsplash.