August 21 is fast-approaching and although there are between two and five solar eclipses per year somewhere on earth, there hasn't been a total eclipse that crossed the entire contiguous United States since 1918! There is a metric ton of information about eclipses on the Internet. Some good. Some bad. Some plain loony. But we're here to to help you separate fact from fiction so that you can best enjoy the 2017 total solar eclipse.
I need a filter to shoot the eclipse on my iPhone
False! Your iPhone doesn't need a filter or anything else to shoot iPhone-quality images of the eclipse.
I won't see anything since I'm not in the path of totality
Not true! Although you may not be able to be at a location where the moon totally blocks the sun from view (totality), you can see some of the sun being eclipsed and it is still quite a beautiful event to behold. There are various applications that can help you get the most out of your eclipse viewing pleasure with your iPhone, including what sort of view you'll get in your area.
I can't stare at the eclipse directly without special glasses
You can, BUT only under VERY SPECIFIC CONDITIONS! In fact, it's so perilous that we recommend you don't do it. You can only do so when your are in totality. That is, when the moon completely blocks out the sun on a very specific path that will traverse the country.
Secondly, totality lasts for approximately two minutes. Stray on either side of that timing and your retinas will get a nice blast of eye-damaging radiation from the sun.
Although I hear that the view of the sun's corona is quite the spectacle, there will be literally hundreds of professional photographers and videographers that will give you a better (and safer) view of the eclipse in real time and after the fact. Seriously, don't risk it.
I can make my own eclipse glasses
You can but probably shouldn't. For only a few dollars you can purchase ISO- and CE-certified solar glasses that you KNOW will work properly.
A safer do-it-your-self project is to create a simple pinhole projector to project the solar image onto a safely viewable sheet. This allows for multiple people viewing the image at once and makes for a nice social experience.
They are an omen of something good or bad
A vestige from ancient beliefs. Trying to get some sort of understanding of why bad things happen is human nature. Hoping to control or limit catastrophe is as well. Associating the happenings in the celestial sky with famine or pestilence became religious affairs. Those religious rites eventually became part of cultural beliefs. There are still some to this day that associate celestial events such as eclipses as a harbinger of evil.
We understand very well the timings of solar eclipses and their non-correlation with catastrophic events to safely conclude that they are not an omen of anything other than an amazing viewing event.
Tides are bigger than normal due to the sun and moon in alignment
There is no appreciable difference in the height of the earth's tides during a solar eclipse than when there is a new moon or a full moon. The alignment of the moon has less of an effect than the proximity of the moon. When a new moon or full moon closely aligns with perigee (the closest point to Earth in the moon's orbit), only then will you witness the largest tides.
An eclipse has lasting effects on your health
We've also read about some people believing that being exposed to a solar eclipse can cause various health issues, including possible health risks to pregnant women. The idea likely comes from the talk of exposing our eyes to harmful solar radiation when viewing outside of totality. Other than the potential of blinding yourself by not wearing protective eyewear, there are no lasting physical effects from solar radiation than there is from any other sunny day.
Have you heard of any other eclipse-related information that you need verified? Let us know in the comments!
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