A solar eclipse doesn't occur every day, so it's good to be reminded how to watch one safely. Wichita State University's Greg Novacek offers the following tips on how to watch a solar eclipse safely.


To view the partial phase of the eclipse safely, you will need to use a solar filter which meets the international standard for solar viewing -- ISO 12312-2. These filters are being sold as eclipse glasses, where each eye has its own filter. You will need to inspect the filter for any pin holes or scratches prior to use, and if any are found, it is unsafe to use the filter. You can also construct a pinhole camera to safely view the eclipse.

If you are traveling to a location where the total eclipse is visible, you should remove the glasses once the sun is completely covered by the moon and put them back on at the first sign of direct sunlight.

In Wichita, Kansas, eclipse viewing parties are being held by the WSU College of Education on the Corbin Education Center Patio from 12:30-2:30 p.m. (as part of the university’s WelcomeFest activities); Exploration Place from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; and the Great Plains Nature Center from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. All three location will have a limited number of eclipse glasses to distribute or to share.


In the continental United States, the 70-mile width path of totality begins on the Oregon coast and passes through portions of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. Other areas of the continental states will see a partial eclipse. In Wichita, the eclipse will begin at 11:37 a.m. and end at 2:33 p.m. Mid-eclipse will occur at 1:05 p.m. with nearly 93 percent of the sun obscured by the moon. 

Generally, one total solar eclipse is visible each year from some place on Earth. This eclipse is special for a couple of reasons: (1) It is the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States since 1979 and (2) The last total solar eclipse that had a path of totality stretching across the United States from coast-to-coast occurred in 1918.


Solar Eclipses occur when the moon lies directly between the Earth and sun, while lunar eclipses occur when Earth lies directly between the sun and moon. Since the moon's orbit around Earth is tilted about 5 degrees with respect to Earth's orbit around the sun, we only have eclipses at about six month intervals.

In this eclipse season we have the total eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, and a partial lunar eclipse on the evening of Aug. 7-8 visible from Europe, Asia and Africa. Another pair of eclipses occurred last February and another pair will occur in January / February of 2018.  Generally, one total solar eclipse is visible each year from some place on Earth. So eclipses aren’t rare, it’s just in order to see one, especially a total solar eclipse, you have to be in a particular location.


Greg Novacek

Director of STEM Initiative; Curriculum and Instruction at Wichita State University


[email protected]