Tips for Watching the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

~Learn more about the eclipse by checking out some of the happenings on our solar eclipse events calendar. ~AW

The other day, I was discussing the upcoming total solar eclipse with a few other parents at the park. I have to admit, I didn’t truly understand it. “I don’t need to preplan. It’s a solar eclipse. Whatever.”

Their responses surprised me. One dad explained his experience in college in the Midwest when he had a prime viewing spot for a partial solar eclipse. “It actually felt spiritual, like there was this otherworldly hush over the earth. The birds became quiet and the light shining through the leaves created hundreds of tiny eclipse shadows on the ground. An amazing experience.” The other parents who had also seen an eclipse agreed with him.

This truly once-in-a-lifetime event is coming to Oregon on August 21.

In 1979, as a child, Oregon resident and children’s book author Nancy Coffelt watched a partial eclipse from a field in Tigard, Oregon, and thought it was the coolest thing she’d ever seen. Now Nancy has written a delightful book to help families prepare for this year’s total solar eclipse that will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. In her book, The Big Eclipse (Orbit Oregon, August 2016), a cast of colorful animal characters educate about the eclipse and the importance of eye safety during the partial phases of the eclipse. Included with every book is a safe solar eclipse viewer. Here are her tips.

If you’re traveling, get ready

If you are traveling to see the total eclipse, which will cover a path approximately 60-70 miles wide from Lincoln City to Baker City, make sure that you allow plenty of time to make it to your destination. Traffic will be heavy and it’s recommended that families leave at least a day (or two) early to get to their viewing spot, as the eclipse will be in the morning. Even though it’s usually an hour and 15-minute drive to Salem, you might not make it there on eclipse day, since travelers will clog I-5. While most spots have been grabbed up, you can still find a few places in the path of totality with availability here.

If you do choose to travel to a remote area, take a map since GPS and telephones don’t always work; take extra food and water, and let someone know where you’re headed. Another concern for eclipse travelers is that August is fire season in many parts of Oregon and emergency vehicles may be hampered by heavy traffic. It’s important to make sure you have a place to stay before you get there. Hotels and campgrounds will be at full capacity. If you have family or friends who live in the path of totality, consider asking if you can stay with them to celebrate the Big Eclipse together!

Take eye safety seriously

To prepare to view the total eclipse (or partial eclipse if you stay in Portland), you need to first realize that we can’t safely look at the sun without proper viewing glasses. This is so important. Buy your solar eclipse viewing glasses soon, and make sure to choose ones that are CE-certified, meeting international standards for solar filters. Don’t wait until the last minute. You can buy them here. At $1.50 each, you can get a pair for everyone in your viewing party.

Portland will be a great place to view the partial eclipse, which will take place roughly between 9 am and 12 pm, and it will be easier than traveling out of town if you have young children. Invite over neighbors and friends, make special snacks and have a Big Eclipse Party! There’s a recipe for Big Eclipse cookies, instructions for and party planning tips in the Big Eclipse Activity Book, also by Nancy Coffelt.

Get your kids involved

Whatever your plans this summer, just make sure you don’t miss viewing the eclipse with your children. Experiencing this phenomenal sight in their early years can set them up for a lifetime of interest and curiosity about astronomy, weather, space and science. Take your children to the library in the upcoming months to check out books about eclipses. Discuss the eclipse with your children. Help your kids look up information on NASA’s informative website. They have extensive resources available for children including photographic images of eclipses available for public use.

One final tip: Enjoy the moment, because it will be very brief and it won’t happen again for a very, very long time.

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