Our resident science genius, Dr. Paul Gilbert M.D. is about to break down this whole total eclipse thing for parents!

by Paul Gilbert, M.D.

What’s Happening?

On Monday, August 21st a total solar eclipse will occur in the early afternoon, peaking around 2:50 PM in the Boca Raton area. Here in South Florida, though, we will not see “totality” or the sun completely covered by the moon, we will only have a partial eclipse (~80% of the sun will be covered by the moon).

What’s the danger?

The danger with an eclipse occurs when an individual looks directly at the eclipse without specialized, protective eye wear. Although the sun is partially covered, the sun’s rays are still strong enough to damage our eyes and potentially cause temporary or in severe cases permanent blindness. Keep in mind, this is the same danger we face every day if we were to look directly at the sun, which is something all humans avoid doing by their natural instincts (because it hurts!)

So, is it safe to be outside during an eclipse or send my child to school?

Yes! There is no danger being outside, just like any other day. Children can safely attend school. As mentioned above, the only danger is if you look directly at the eclipse. Children should be educated about the eclipse and to not look at the sun.
To be extra safe, toddlers may benefit from staying inside for two reasons: they are unlikely to cooperate with wearing “eclipse glasses” and they may look up at the eclipse because everyone else is looking up (they love to copy what others are doing at this age).

How can we safely view the eclipse?

There are a number of different ways. The best (and safest) views will actually be on TV or online from live streams from professional cameras and telescope. ABC, The Weather Channel, NASA (and likely many others) will be providing live streams.

You can use specialized “eclipse glasses” or “solar viewers”. Make sure the ones you have meet international standards for eye protection, they should say “ISO 12312-2.” If they are scratched, damaged, or old (more than 3 years) do not use them. Be sure to put them on before you look up at the eclipse and then take them off after you look away from the eclipse.
Note: Sunglasses will NOT protect your eyes.

A neat science experiment you can do with children is to create a “pinhole camera” by simply putting a small hole in a piece of paper or cardstock. With the sun/eclipse to your back, look at the shadow cast by the paper on the ground and you will see an image of the sun in the shadow (which should look like a crescent).

For More Information:

The following websites provide excellent information about the eclipse and how to view it.