On the afternoon of October 23, 2014, a partial solar eclipse will be visible from most of North America. Here's everything you need to know to catch a glimpse – and how to do it safely.
Photo Credit: Bill Dickinson via flickr | CC BY 2.0
The first thing you'll want to do is determine whether, and at what time, the eclipse will be visible from your location. If you're in the United States, you'll want to check out this handy reference chart, courtesy of NASA. It lists the local start time, end time, and time of maximum eclipse for 72 major American cities. This animation from timeanddate.com shows that, cloud cover permitting, people in the Central Time Zone will have the best view of all – but unless you hail from Hawaii or New England, the vast majority of North America should be able to glimpse at least partial Sun-blockage, and East-Coasters will get a great view of the eclipse at sunset:
Your best bet is probably the SLOOH Space Camera, which will be broadcasting live beginning at 2 PM PDT/5 PM EDT/21:00 UTC. SLOOH even has it set up so you can take pictures of the eclipse as it unfolds.
One of the benefits to watching the eclipse online, rather than in-person, is not having to worry about taking precautions when actually viewing the eclipse. Looking directly at the Sun — even during an eclipse, and, yes, even with sunglasses — is an awful, awful idea, and can permanently damage your vision.
To safely view the eclipse, you'll want to go buy a solar filter. These come in a variety of forms, from wearable solar shades, to attachments that you can affix to telescopes and binoculars. They'll cut the brightness by enough that you'll be able to catch glimpses of the Sun without frying your retinas.
If it's last-minute, or buying a solar filter isn't an option, Sky and Telescope has detailed instructions for viewing the eclipse with a variety of pinhole projection techniques. (The photograph featured here shows how skygazers in Madrid used projection techniques to view an annular eclipse back in 2005.) The simplest technique requires little more than a couple of index cards, a sharp pencil, and a clear view of the sun:
Poke a small hole in an index card with a pencil point, face it toward the Sun, and hold a second card three or four feet behind it in its shadow. The hole will project a small image of the Sun's disk onto the lower card. This image will go through all the phases of the eclipse, just as the real Sun does. Experiment with different size holes. A large hole makes the image bright but fuzzy; a small hole makes it dim but sharp. the ever-popular pinhole projector technique.
More advanced projection methods involve the use of a cardboard box, or the room of a house with a sun-facing window. You can click through for more details.