For the first time in 148 years, a total solar eclipse will be visible across Missouri. This summer Lee’s Summit is in a great spot to view it. Although some are traveling north to St. Joseph or east toward the middle of the state to see the totality, we can see 99 percent of the sun covered from our own backyard on Aug. 21 just after 1 p.m.
A solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on the Earth. Depending on where you view this event on Earth, the sun is either partially (partial eclipse) or totally (total eclipse) obscured by the moon. This spectacular event allows us to briefly glimpse the sun’s corona (its outer atmosphere). The path of the total eclipse’s shadow is about 70 miles across and just misses Lee’s Summit.
Everyone’s likely heard horror stories about looking directly at the sun and permanent damage it can cause. This can be avoided if you follow a few simple guidelines:
Most importantly: Don’t look directly at the sun, not even briefly. The only exception is during complete totality, which is less than 2 minutes long. Lee’s Summit will NOT experience totality, so keep your glasses on unless you travel and the sun in completely covered.
View only with certified “eclipse glasses.” Make sure you view the eclipse with ISO-certified filters. Polarized and other sun glasses are not dark enough to protect your eye from damage, nor will smoked glass, neutral density filters, and other dark tinted materials. Don’t view it through unfiltered cameras, telescopes, binocular or other optical devices, even with eclipse glasses on, as the concentrated solar rays will damage the glasses and enter the eye causing severe damage.
Take breaks. Even if you’re wearing proper eyewear, if you’re watching the full event (which takes about 2.5 hours), we recommend that you take frequent breaks.
Don’t have glasses? Make a pinhole projector. With your back to the sun and hands outstretched, overlap your fingers, slightly spread them out and look at the shadow of your hands on the ground. In the grid you’ve made, you’ll see the sun as a crescent during the partial phases.
Supervise children. Lee’s Summit School District has purchased ISO-certified filters for all their students, but we still need to watch to ensure they put the glasses on before glancing up at the sun and look down before removing them.
Join the millions who are traveling to our area to view this celestial event. Learn more by visiting Eclipse.aas.org or http://Eclipse2017.nasa.gov
Author Laura Nennig is an optometrist with Eyecare Associates of Lee’s Summit. She is a guest author for the Health Education Advisory Board, a mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.