FARGO – Next Monday, Americans will see something they haven’t seen since Jimmy Carter was president, the mini-series “Roots” aired on television and The Village People’s “YMCA” topped the charts – a total eclipse of the sun.
August 21 marks the first total solar eclipse of the sun in the continental United States since February 26, 1979. What makes this eclipse even more special is that it’s the first time since the United States became a country that a total solar eclipse will occur exclusively over the U.S. – no other country will see totality with this eclipse. That’s why this eclipse is being called “The Great American Eclipse.” (Seriously, the next time this happens is 2024.)
But what does this mean? Parts of 14 states will go completely dark – the closest totality state to us is Nebraska. In Fargo, we will see a partial solar eclipse starting at 11:38 a.m., peaking at 12:59 p.m. and ending by 2:20 p.m. If you’re going to take time out of your day to watch the eclipse, it’s important that you not look at the sun directly. The sun’s powerful rays can damage the naked eye causing irreparable harm to the retina and potentially even blindness.
Special eclipse viewing glasses are flying off the shelves. But NASA warns that not all eclipse glasses are the same. Some do not provide significant protection from the sun’s rays. NASA recommends buying eclipse viewing glasses from any one of just five companies: American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium, Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17. They are available on Amazon and in some Walmart and Lowe’s stores.
If you don’t want to buy glasses or didn’t get around to it, you can also try making your own eclipse viewers, utilizing items you’d find around your house including paper plates, boxes, tape, and aluminum foil. Here is a quick rundown of how to make the easiest of these DIY viewers, courtesy of Timeanddate.com.
Eclipse Viewing: Simple Card Projector
Total time to make: 1 minute
The simplest and quickest way to safely project the sun is with a projector made from only two pieces of cardboard or paper.
2 pieces of stiff white cardboard (I used two paper plates)
1 thumbtack, a sharp pin or a needle
To make a quick version of the pinhole projector, take a sheet of paper and make a tiny hole in the middle, using a pin or thumbtack. Make sure the hole is round and smooth. With your back toward the sun, hold 1 piece of paper above your shoulder allowing the sun to shine on the paper. The second sheet of paper will act as a screen. Hold it at a distance, and you will see an inverted image of the sun projected on the paper screen through the pinhole. To make the image of the sun larger, hold the screen paper further away from the paper with the pinhole.
Eclipse Viewing: Projector Using a Box
Total time to make: 5 minutes
This type of pinhole projector works on the same principle as a basic pinhole projector. However, the box makes this projector much sturdier and easier to set on a surface. It also only requires a few extra items to construct.
1 long cardboard box or tube
1 pin or a thumbtack
1 sharp knife or paper cutter
1 sheet of white paper
Cut a rectangular hole at the end of the box. (You can tape 2 boxes together to make a long box. The longer the box, the larger the projected image.)
Using scissors, cut a piece of aluminum foil slightly larger than the rectangular hole. Make sure the foil is completely flat and not crinkled. Tape the foil over the rectangular hole in the box. Use the pin to poke a tiny hole in the center of the foil. Tape the sheet of paper on the inside of the other end of the box. Stand with your back toward the sun. Place the box over your head with the pinhole towards the sun. Adjust your position until you see a small projection – a negative image of the eclipsed sun on the paper inside the box.
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