SYLACAUGA, Ala. – We are under three weeks away from the United States’ first complete solar eclipse in nearly 40 years. Thousands across the country will be traveling to get into the eclipse’s path.

For those in the direct path – a narrow 70 mile wide path stretching from the Pacific Northwest to South Carolina – the moon and sun are expected to intersect, creating this extraordinary event. The sun is expected to be completely covered by the moon for just under three minutes as its shadow is anticipated to move at 1,447 mph across the country.

For those not in the direct path, you will see a partial eclipse, but not receive the same theatrics as those in the 70 mile wide path.

While fun and exciting, this phenomenon may be dangerous. No, this is not the apocalypse, but if you are not careful it could be the end of your vision.

According to the American Astronomical Society, the eclipse should not be viewed with unprotected eyes. For the brief seconds the sun is completely blocked eyes of viewers should be fine, but partial eclipses are dangerous.

Normal sunglasses and homemade devices will not do the trick. The only safe way to look directly at the eclipse or partially eclipsed Sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses.” Click here to see the AAS’ list of acceptable brands of trusted vendors.

If you plan to view the eclipse, here is a list of tips provided by the AAS:

  • Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched, punctured, torn, or otherwise damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
  • Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright Sun. After looking at the Sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the Sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
  • Similarly, do not look at the Sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays could damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device; note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens, or other optics.
  • If you are inside the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the Moon completely covers the Sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright Sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases.
  • Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the Sun directly.

Jeremy Law for SylacaugaNews.com | © 2017, SylacaugaNews.com/Marble City Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.