I’m sure you’re aware that there is a total solar eclipse on August 21 that will span a 70-mile wide band across the entire United States. In fact, the US is the only place that this eclipse will be visible.
Even if you aren’t directly in the path or can’t make the trip to see the total eclipse, you will still be able to see a pretty amazing partial eclipse. Just make sure you do it safely. And no, those Ray-Bans won’t do the trick.
We have put together a list of the best gear to make your eclipse viewing awesome and also keep you safe. If you have any questions, the American Astronomical Society has a great set of guidelines for safe eclipse viewing.
The easiest way to view this or any solar eclipse is with a pair of so-called eclipse glasses, like these from Rainbow Symphony. There’s no shortage of other options available as well, but, as NASA explains, you’ll want to make sure you get a pair that meets the ISO 12312-2 standard. NASA also recommends that you check your glasses before using them, and throw them away if they’re scratched or damaged.
Celestron ISO Certified, 2017 North American Total Solar Eclipse EclipSmart 2x Power Viewers Solar Observing Kit
For a bit of a step up from simple eclipse glasses, you can also consider some solar viewers like these from Celestron. They’ll give you the same protection as the glasses (look for the same ISO certification), but they’ll also give you 2x magnification for a slightly closer look at the eclipse. They’re also still a decidedly inexpensive option at just $10 for a pair of viewers, which also includes a handy fold-out map with a vintage style poster on the reverse side.
If you already have binoculars, a telescope, or a camera that you want to view or capture the eclipse with, you can do so by adding a proper filter to it. Here, your options are pretty open ended. You can buy a simple solar filter sheet for as little as $10 that you can use to make your own filter, or you can buy a purpose-built solar lens filter that’s suitable for your lens (or lenses), the latter of which can get quite a bit pricier. As with other eclipse viewing gear, you need to make sure the filter is up to the necessary standards, and don’t use it if it’s scratched, damaged.
Binoculars are a simple and inexpensive alternative to telescopes for surveying the night sky, and a pair that’s safe for solar viewing are also a great option for observing the sun (during an eclipse or otherwise). These EclipSmart binoculars from Celestron have non-removable solar filters, so they won’t do double-duty for non-solar viewing, but there’s no danger of misplacing or forgetting to put the filters on if you’re rushing to catch the eclipse.
You’ll likely want to also have some solar-safe glasses or binoculars on hand to fully take in the eclipse, but a telescope with a solar filter will give you the most detailed view. If you don’t already have a scope and are looking for a simple all-in-one kit, this 82mm reflector telescope from Meade will get the job done in a nice and portable package. It comes with a removeable solar filter that you can use for watching the eclipse or general observation of the sun, and the telescope is more than capable enough for some basic nighttime viewing of the moon and planets when the filter is removed.