by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Mar 17, 2015
Though not as rare as they're made out to be, total solar eclipses don't come around all that often -- only once every 18 months or so. So it's only natural to want to capture the astronomical phenomenon for posterity's sake, whether with a photograph or a mental image.
But the feat can be dangerous. When rushing to catch a glimpse of this Friday's solar eclipse, it's important to take the proper safety precautions, so as not to damage one's camera -- or more importantly, one's eyes. Below are some tips on taking in this week's eclipse.
This week's solar eclipse will manifest itself on March 20, the first since Nov. 3, 2013. But only a small portion of the world will get to see the eclipse in its totality.
The full shadow cone of the sun-backed moon will chart a path across the northern Atlantic and Arctic Oceans early Friday morning. The shadow will first appear on the southern tip of Greenland before taking a curved, counterclockwise path to the northeast, splitting Iceland and the United Kingdom before passing over the Faroe Islands and later hovering atop a small chain of Norwegian islands.
Larger swaths of Europe and Asia will witness a partial eclipse, with the moon -- depending on where one's looking from -- blocking out anywhere from half to nearly all of the sun's diameter.
For residents of the United States, the only way to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse will be online. The Internet astronomy site Slooh Community Observatory will stream live views of the solar eclipse starting at 4:30 a.m. EST.
For those in the total eclipse zone (a map of the zone can be found online), it's important to never look directly at the event. One must also take precautions when attempting to photograph the eclipse. Just as the lenses of one's eyes can magnify the powerful rays to blinding effects, so too can one's camera lens -- causing irreparable damage to the camera, and ruining the photo.
It's important to limit the amount of light flooding into the camera's lens, otherwise photos will appear as a big white blur. Solar filters, laid atop the camera's lens, are the best bet for picture-takers looking for a crisp shot of the total eclipse.
Selfie-takers should take extra precaution, experts say, as making sure things look just right could distract from the safety-first mantra.
"Taking a selfie could potentially put you at risk as you may end up accidentally looking directly at the Sun while aligning yourself and your phone," optometrist Daniel Hardiman-McCartney told the Telegraph.
"Whilst a solar eclipse is an amazing and infrequent event, the general public must remember that they should not look directly at the Sun or at a solar eclipse," Hardiman-McCartney added, "either with the naked eye, even if dark filters such as sunglasses or photographic negatives are used, nor through optical equipment such as cameras, binoculars or telescopes."
The best bet for viewing and photographing Friday's solar eclipse is to build a pinhole camera or solar projector using a shoebox and binoculars.
Solar and Lunar Eclipses at Skynightly
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