7 Things To Do Before The Eclipse

 On August 21st, the United States will get to experience a total solar eclipse spanning from Oregon to South Carolina. For many people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event (the last total solar eclipse to span across the U.S was in 1979). Lucky for us, the Volunteer State is a wonderful place to sit back and watch this rare celestial phenomenon. The entire state of Tennessee will get to see the partial eclipse, but places like Nashville, Lebanon, and Clarksville will get to witness the full totality in which the moon completely covers the sun. However, whether you are staying home or taking a trip, these are some things you should do beforehand to fully enjoy the experience.

1. Buy solar eclipse glasses—When it comes to viewing the eclipse, safety should be your top priority. You will need to get special glasses specifically made for eclipse viewing. If you don’t, you risk permanent afterimages, burned retinas, and even blindness. The only time it is acceptable to remove your glasses is during the totality phase, but be sure to put them back on before the sun returns. The glasses are sold at many retailers, but make sure that they are a licensed brand and not unverified knock-offs that could leave you at risk. You can buy the glasses very inexpensively (usually about $1) at places like 7-11, Best Buy, Kroger, Lowes, Kirkland's, Toys “R” Us, and Walmart. Some schools, libraries, and healthcare facilities are also giving away glasses.

2. Do some research before the big day—If you want to enjoy the eclipse to the fullest, be sure to do some prior research in order to be fully prepared. Many websites and other resources have compiled helpful guides for eclipse viewers. For instance, NASA has released a map of the United States showing the path of the eclipse as well as noted viewing locations. You can find the map here.

3. Pick your location—Whether you are planning on staying local or traveling elsewhere, you’ll need to decide on the location from where you'll watch the gorgeous sight. If you’re staying in your area, wide open areas like public parks are a good option. You can even organize or attend an eclipse viewing party and watch the eclipse from there. If you’re planning on traveling out of town, you’ll need to do a little more research and preparation. You’ll want to leave early enough not to get stuck in the traffic jam of people making their way to the totality zone. Check online and find out what area you want to visit and decide what the best route would be. You should also consider staying the night before or after to avoid the rush of people. (Note that MANY hotels will be booked up—many avid eclipse-chasers have booked their rooms months in advance.)

4. Check the weather—One thing you should definitely do is check the forecast for whatever area you will be in on the day of the eclipse. A rainy or overcast day is an easy way to put a damper on the excitement of the eclipse. Don’t worry too much though—even if it is cloudy, you will still be able to enjoy cool sights such as the darkening of the sky. If the forecast is very sunny, you’ll still need to prepare as you’ll see in number 5. For updates on the best weather conditions, you can visit NOAA’s website.

5. Pack your bags—In addition to your eclipse glasses, you should pack a few other things, such as:

  • Sunscreen—You can still get burned if you’re not careful!
  • Water—You’ll have a hard time enjoying the eclipse if you’re dehydrated.
  • Jacket or Sweater—One thing many people don’t know about the eclipse is it causes a dramatic temperature change. During the eclipse, temperatures usually drop about 10 degrees but in some locations it can drop over 30. So even if it’s a blazing August day, you’ll still want to pack a jacket.
  • Cellphone—Make sure you remember to bring your phone with you in case of emergencies. However, be prepared to lose service, as often happens when a lot of people are crowded together in one place.
  • Cash—If you’re at a public area or viewing event, some vendors may not take credit or debit cards. Furthermore, with such an influx of people travelling, some ATM’s might run out of money or systems may be delayed.
  • Lawn Chairs or Picnic Blankets—Unless you want to sit on the grass for an extended period of time, you’ll want something to rest on.
  • Kid’s Activities—If you plan on having children in your group, be sure to bring activities or games to entertain them if they get bored.
  • Food and Snacks—Being ‘hangry’ during the eclipse isn’t any fun either.

6. Don't forget your pets—If you can, keep your pets inside with the blinds closed. Although it’s not likely that your four-legged friend will look directly at the sun, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Their vision can be damaged just like ours!

7. For photographers—If you are photographing the event, you must use a solar filter during the partial phases for safe viewing. However, the solar filter must be removed at the totality phase. It is completely safe to look at the totally eclipsed sun without the filters. For more eclipse photography tips, Nikon has compiled a very useful guide on their website.