How to view the solar eclipse in Minnesota with no effort

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The Great American Total Solar Eclipse is here and will be the first one of its kind since America was established in 1776.  If you want to be in the path of totality when it crosses the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina, you have to do some traveling out of the state.  But for many of us that aren’t heading south, there are still plenty of ways you can have a pretty cool experience in Minnesota.

The state of Minnesota will see anywhere from 70% to 90% of the sun blocked when the moon passes in front of it on August 21st.  The eclipse will start around 11:45am in the metro, peak right around 1:07pm, and then finish up by 2:30pm.  During that time, you can see the transition of the moon in front of the sun.  But you can’t look directly at it, even if 90% of it is covered.  The sun is so powerful that you can still quickly damage your eyes by staring at it, even for a few seconds.  In fact, our eyes can’t discern ANY change in visible light until the sun is at least 95% covered… that’s how powerful it is.  There are ways though to view this spectacle with little or no prep.

The easiest way is to buy some solar eclipse glasses.  No, not the sunglasses you keep in your car, but actual eclipse glasses.  These glasses block out 99.9% of the suns light, allowing you to look at it for long periods of time.  You are running out of time and options as we get closer though, so head to google and see if you can find a pair.  But buyer beware for 2 reasons: the first is they are getting harder to find, so the price is quickly climbing… and second is that there are fakes out there.  The solar glasses you purchase MUST have the ISO logo somewhere on them.  It is typically printed on the inside of the glasses like the picture above.

If that’s too expensive or too much work, that’s ok, there are plenty of other ways.  It can be as easy as taking a push pin and poking a perfect circular hole in a piece of paper or a note card.  Then take that object outside and cast a shadow.  The shadow will then be in the crescent shape that the sun now appears.  You can use other objects that already cast shadows like a normal kitchen colander, or even holes in the leaves of trees that have been eaten by bugs or other insects… they will cast a similar crescent-like shadow.

While not recommended by many official sources, and I would exercise extreme caution when using this method, you can use TWO pairs of polarized sunglasses to give you a direct look at the sun.  Take your pairs of glasses and line them up perpendicular to each other… then look through both pairs of sunglasses at the same time.  This will give you a similar effect as the solar glasses and allow you to look directly at the sun.  But again, I would exercise caution as this method is not perfect and should only be used for a few seconds at a time as more of the sun’s light and harmful invisible radiation will get through your sunglasses than the solar glasses.  This method should only be used by consenting adults knowing the risk they are taking.

Take advantage of this eclipse because the next one doesn’t happen for another 7 years.  Happy viewing!