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Your Guide to the Great American Eclipse 2017

By Kirsti Smouse

August 11, 2017

Your Guide to the Great American Eclipse 2017

By Kirsti Smouse

August 11, 2017

The Moon Is Staging a Takeover

On August 21st, 2017, a total solar eclipse will cross both coasts of the US for the first time in 99 years.

No matter where you’re located in the lower 48, you will have the opportunity to see at least a part of the show.

And it will be a show.

Even if you’ve never really cared about outer space. Even if you fell asleep in astronomy class. Even if you think it’s all hype. By the accounts of everyone who has witnessed a total solar eclipse — you will be awed.

In preparation for that moment of awe, we’ve created a guide that will tell you what, when, where, why, and how to enjoy the Great American Eclipse.

What Is an Eclipse

A total solar eclipse occurs when the sun, the moon, and the earth line up perfectly. Although the sun is 400 times larger than the moon, it’s also roughly 400 times further away. This makes the moon and the sun appear to be the exact same size. So when they’re lined-up, it results in the moon blocking the sun’s light and casting a shadow on the earth, called the umbra.

A diagram showing how the sun, earth, and moon all line up to create a total solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse occurs approximately every 18 months. However, most of these eclipses happen over wide swaths of ocean, making viewing rare. Typically, a solar eclipse will only recur in the same geographic region every 375 years.

What You Could See

Although “totality” is the main attraction, there are a few other key features to be on the lookout for on August 21st.

Shadow Bands

Moments before and after totality, shimmering dark lines can sometimes be seen wiggling on the ground and across walls. These are called shadow bands, and they’re likely the result of Earth’s atmosphere refracting the last rays of sunlight. Although apparent to the naked eye, they’re tricky to photograph due to their very low contrast.

Baily’s Beads

Light continues to stream over the moon’s surface until the last possible moment, slipping through the valleys and depressions that make up the varied, rough terrain. These rough edges block light from view in some sections while light passes through in others, leading to a sliver of “beaded” light known as Baily’s Beads.

Diamond Ring

As the last rays of sunlight slide past the edges of the moon, a ring of light glitters in the sky with one edge bursting bright. Known as the diamond ring effect, it’s a signal that totality is seconds away.


As the diamond ring winks out, a seeming hole seems to open into the sky. The sun’s brilliant corona shimmers and dances around the black silhouette of the moon. This is totality. Here’s how Mary Loomis Todd described totality in her 1894 book on solar eclipses:

Then out upon the darkness, gruesome but sublime, flashes the glory of the incomparable corona, a silvery, soft, unearthly light, with radiant streamers, stretching at times millions of uncomprehended miles into space, while the rosy, flame-like prominences skirt the black rim of the moon in ethereal splendor. It becomes curiously cold, dew frequently forms, and the chill is perhaps mental as well as physical.

All the stages of a total solar eclipse

Where to Watch

In order to see all of those amazing things, you’ve got to be in the path of totality — 100% of the way in. If you’re even just slightly shy of that, you’ll miss totality.

This path is approximately 70 miles wide. It makes landfall just north of Newport, Oregon at 10:15 am, races across the US hitting 12 states in total, and exits just east of McClellanville, South Carolina at 2:49 pm.

If you can, get yourself into that path.

As recently as August 10th, there were still accommodations listed on Craigslist and Airbnb at different points along the path of totality. There are also miles and miles of land between urban hubs. Consider camping (for free and without any reservations required) on BLM land or in a National Forest.

If you can’t be in that path, you’ll still have the opportunity to experience a partial eclipse — and that’s still worth seeing. Check out this tool where you can enter your zip code to find out what you’ll be able to see on eclipse day.

The path of totality for the great american eclipse 2017

How to Watch

There are a few ways you can enjoy eclipse viewing. If you’re going to watch in person, you can either use a shade 14 welder’s mask (if you just so happen to have one of those on-hand) or eclipse-approved eye protection. Our replacement sunglass lenses are a great option for the festivities leading up to and following the event, but they won’t cut it for direct sun viewing.

Other makeshift methods such as looking through tinfoil, X-ray film, exposed camera film, Mylar balloons, CDs, or space blankets also do not provide adequate protection.

That protection needs to be ISO 12312-2 certified. That means it allows for .003% visible light transmission and no more than .5% of near-infrared radiation.

There have been reports of fake eclipse glasses being sold on Amazon. To ensure you have a legitimate pair of eclipse glasses, the American Astronomical Society has created a list of verified suppliers.

If you’re going to be in Portland or Redmond, Oregon on August 21st, come find us! We’ll be handing out free eclipse sunglasses. You can find out exactly where we’ll be by following us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Alternatively, if you can’t get your hands on eclipse-approved eyewear, create your own pinhole viewer. You can also watch it all unfold via NASA’s live feed.

Man wearing a pair of Revant solar eclipse glasses

Why You Need to Use One of the Methods Above

On an average day, the sun is too strong to look at. You may glance up at it, but you’ll reflexively look away before much damage can be done. At most, you’ll see dark spots that will usually disappear within seconds. But with an eclipse, the full weight of the sun’s power dims, making it easy to stare at for long periods of time. In that time, you won’t feel a thing.

Unfortunately, you’ll literally be burning the cells off your retina (source).

This is known as solar retinopathy, where long exposure to the sun causes scarring of the retina which can lead to partial blindness. Some describe it as a black dot in the center of their vision, but in an interview with, Ralph Chou, professor emeritus at the School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of Waterloo in Canada, explains that most people suffering from solar retinopathy will simply be unable to focus on an image and understand what it is.

"For the most part they have damaged photoreceptors that just aren't capable of doing more than just registering maybe the presence of light but can't really build up enough information for them to be able to see clearly."

It could take 6 or more months to recover — that is if you recover at all. Some people never regain full vision.

If you choose to look at the eclipse with binoculars or a telescope without a proper filter on the lens (your eclipse glasses won’t be enough), the potential consequences get real messy, real fast. Watch the video below for an idea of what could happen. If you’re squeamish, you may want to skip it. Just take our word for it, using a lens without a proper filter attached to the front is a very bad idea.

Join Us for the Viewing

Our headquarters are in Portland, Oregon— just miles from totality.

We’re taking full advantage of our geographic luck, and we’re inviting you to the show.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram for a front row seat to all the action.

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  • Bob Thong

    Hi Team,

    My job is to supervise the construction of mobile phone towers here in Australia,so always out in the beautiful Australian sunshine. I have had the benefit of using Revant's lenses in my old (but still good frames) Oakley's for the last year or two. Thanks to the terrific lenses i purchased some time ago from you all, my eyes are the better for it.

    The reason for writing is that I am jealous about the exciting eclipse coming your way in just a few days. It sounds like a sight to behold and I eagerly await Nasa's live streaming of it. Good luck to all of you on the Revant team who are going to experience it ,as well as keeping people's retina's safe as they watch it.

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