How to use your iPhone to get the most out of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

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! This is your best chance in North America until 2024 to get a view of a solar eclipse in totality. Depending on whether you want to see totality or simply enjoy what you can from your current location, here are some apps and tips to help.

A word of caution before you stare at the sun

As marvelous a spectacle as a solar eclipse is, solar radiation and UV light can seriously damage your eyes as well as cause damage to optical components in your cameras. If you will be enjoying the eclipse in any form, please make certain you have proper protection for your eyes (sunglasses WILL NOT DO) and the proper UV filters for your camera equipment. Though the iPhone has many such filters built-in that will limit exposure to the light, you will still be best served with procuring UV protective gear such as the eclipse kit from Formatt Hitech. With that being said, lets get ready for the 2017 eclipse.

Note: Remember to NEVER look directly at the sun, especially during a solar eclipse, and only use ISO-certified eclipse viewing glasses.

How far are you from viewing a full total eclipse?

Not all view locations are created equal, although some partial aspects of the eclipse can be viewed in a wide swath; the path for viewing the sun completely blocked out by the moon (called totality) is a 70-mile thin strip. One app you can use to see how far away your are from the path of totality is Eclipse Hunter (free in the App Store).

Eclipse Hunter is a very simple app that gets your current GPS location and lets you know in which direction you need to head, the distance you need to travel, and the amount of time you need to get there before totality of the eclipse. You can then make a determination of your logistics to make that happen.

  1. Download Eclipse Hunter from the App store.
  2. Tap Install.
  3. Tap Open.
  4. Tap Allow Eclipse Hunter to access your location.
  5. Tap Closest to see the closest distance to you for totality.
  6. Optionally, offer a donation to the app developer by taping on the Information icon.

What will you see from your current location?

Are you already in the path of totality? Or perhaps you'd rather see what sort of spectacle you'll get form your current location? The app (free, with in-app purchases) gives you all the information you need to figure that out.

The app gets your GPS location and then gives you a preview of what you can expect from the eclipse. It then informs you if you are or are not in the path of totality and instructs you on the safe use of eclipse glasses depending on your results.

  1. Download from App store.**
  2. Tap Install.
  3. Tap Open.
  4. Tap I Agree to all of the legal stuff.
  5. Optionally tap Upgrade Now to all use of your GPS radio to setup your location.
  6. Tap Continue.

  1. Tap Select my location.
  2. Enter your Location.
  3. Tap Allow for to access your location.
  4. View the eclipse preview at your entered location.

The app also offers some links to purchase eclipse glasses from directly inside the app.

Get the most out of totality

If you are one of the lucky ones that will get to be in the path of totality during the 2017 eclipse, then there is an app called Solar Eclipse Timer ($1.99 in the App store) that will literally talk you through the event! It will tell you of the various states of the eclipse as it goes through them in real time and inform you when you can remove your eclipse glasses to get a view of totality directly and when to put them back on before frying your optics!

Although Solar Eclipse Timer is only really functional during a live solar eclipse, it comes with a "practice eclipse movie" that you can become acquainted with to let you understand the ins and outs of the program. Here's how to get that preview started.

  1. Download Eclipse Timer from the App store.**
  2. Tap Install.
  3. Tap Open.
  4. Tap Settings.
  5. Tap Play a Practice Eclipse Movie.
  6. Follow along with the movie.

How will you view the eclipse?

Will you be getting out to enjoy the 2017 eclipse? Let us know your plans in the comments!

Anthony Casella