Solar eclipse for dummies: everything you want to know but are too embarrassed to ask

Posted: Updated:
Solar eclipse will be 62% visible from Phoenix at max time of 10:33 a.m. Solar eclipse will be 62% visible from Phoenix at max time of 10:33 a.m.
An iPhone LED light as seen without eclipse glasses and with them. (Source: Catherine Holland, 3TV/CBS 5) An iPhone LED light as seen without eclipse glasses and with them. (Source: Catherine Holland, 3TV/CBS 5)
The top image shows legit glasses by American Paper Optics. The bottom image shows counterfeit glasses. (Source: Wikipedia) The top image shows legit glasses by American Paper Optics. The bottom image shows counterfeit glasses. (Source: Wikipedia)
Eclipse glass won't cut it for your camera/phone. You need a special solar filter to protect it. (Source: Catherine Holland, 3TV/CBS 5) Eclipse glass won't cut it for your camera/phone. You need a special solar filter to protect it. (Source: Catherine Holland, 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

[On Monday, Aug. 21, an estimated 500 million people will be able to watch the solar eclipse in partial or total form. According to NASA, the last time most Americans experienced a total solar eclipse was 1991. It was only seen in parts of Hawaii.

The last time a total solar eclipse was visible from the contiguous United States was Feb. 26, 1979.

Our newsroom has been getting a number of emails, phone calls and posts on Facebook with questions about the eclipse, so we're answering some of them here.

[SPECIAL SECTION: TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE 2017]

What is a solar eclipse?

For this, let's go to our experts at NASA:
Sometimes when the moon orbits Earth, it moves between the sun and Earth. When this happens, the moon blocks the light of the sun from reaching Earth. This causes an eclipse of the sun, or solar eclipse. During a solar eclipse, the moon casts a shadow onto Earth.

[LET'S ELABORATE: 5 basic questions about eclipses answered]

Why doesn't the eclipse look the same to everyone in the U.S.?

A total solar eclipse is only visible from a small area on Earth. Those who see a total eclipse are in the center of the moon's shadow when it passes the Earth.

Arizona will not be in the center of the moon's shadow, so those living here will see only a partial eclipse. Phoenix will see about 62 percent of the eclipse. Those living in northern Arizona will see more. Page will see close to 80 percent of the eclipse. (Arizona was not in the path of totality in 1979, either.)

[RELATED: Solar eclipse viewing parties in Arizona]

[AND: Majestic places to view solar eclipse in AZ]

Now, this is all assuming we don't have heavy cloud cover, and as we all know, anything goes during the Arizona monsoon.

[FORECAST: AZ skies looking good for Monday's solar eclipse!]

[WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT? What the August eclipse will look like in Arizona]

What really happens when you look at the eclipse?

During the eclipse, harmful rays from the sun will still reach the Earth. They will be strong enough that if you look at the eclipse with your naked eyes, you could burn your retinas. This is the part of your eye that transmits images to your brain. You won't feel any pain, and may not notice the effects until the next day. Permanent damage and even blindness are possible.

[WATCH: Why Solar Eclipse glasses are necessary to protect your eyes]

Can I wear sunglasses to look at the eclipse?

No. You must wear eclipse glasses. These have become incredibly hard to find over the past week because nearly everyone has been buying them in preparation for the event. Solar eclipse glasses are about 100,000 times darker than standard glasses or sunglasses. They're also made from a black polymer that blocks almost all visible light and all ultraviolet radiation. If you do get your hands on a pair, NASA recommends that the glasses meet the ISO 12312-2 certification standard. They should also have the manufacturer's name and address printed somewhere on the product, and do not have damaged or scratched lenses.

[THE 411: How to keep your eyes protected, avoid scams during solar eclipse]

[TIPS: How to watch the eclipse without burning your eyes out]

[RELATED: No glasses? No problem! Other viewing options for the solar eclipse]

Do I need to wear the glasses during the entire eclipse?

No. If you are in the thin path of totality, which lasts for only about two minutes, it is OK to take off your eclipse glasses. This is the short time when the moon fully eclipses the sun.

Do pets need to wear these glasses?

Experts say that dogs and cats don't normally look up at the sun, and they aren't expected to do so during the eclipse. If you're still concerned, keep them indoors during the eclipse.

What if I'm driving during the eclipse?

Don't wear your eclipse glasses while driving. If you want to watch the eclipse, get to your destination before it actually happens. Don't stop in the middle of traffic.

[RELATED: AAA offers advice for drivers during the solar eclipse]

Can I use my cell phone to take pictures of the eclipse?

According to the 3TV/CBS 5 director of engineering, you should not point any camera, including phones, directly at the sun without an approved solar filter in front of the lens. Doing so will run a high risk of burning out the imager in the camera. A solar filter is not just a neutral density filter it also filters out IR and UV light. 

[LEARN MORE: What will the solar eclipse do to your smartphone and camera equipment?]

[AND EVEN MORE: Here's how you can photograph the coming solar eclipse]

What time is the eclipse?

In the Phoenix area, the eclipse starts around 9:13 a.m., hits max at around 10:33 a.m. and ends around 11:00 a.m.

[FAST FACTS: Peak viewing times for the solar eclipse in Arizona]

Don't forget to watch 3TV Monday morning for our special coverage of the eclipse. Good Morning Arizona 4:30 a.m. - 10 a.m. Then our Eclipse Special from 10 a.m. - Noon.

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


  • Arizona's Family Weather BlogMore>>

  • When will it snow in Arizona?

    When will it snow in Arizona?

    Sunday, November 19 2017 8:27 PM EST2017-11-20 01:27:35 GMT
    (Source: NOAA.gov)(Source: NOAA.gov)

    Our above average summer and warmer than normal Fall are now beginning to trickle into our not so cold winter.

    More >

    Our above average summer and warmer than normal Fall are now beginning to trickle into our not so cold winter.

    More >
  • Meteor or meteorite? So which is it?

    Meteor or meteorite? So which is it?

    Thursday, November 16 2017 5:06 PM EST2017-11-16 22:06:16 GMT
    (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)(Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

    Here is your crash course on meteor 101!

    More >

    Here is your crash course on meteor 101!

    More >
  • Looking ahead: Early Thanksgiving forecast

    Looking ahead: Early Thanksgiving forecast

    Wednesday, November 15 2017 1:46 PM EST2017-11-15 18:46:13 GMT

    We're currently tied for the fourth warmest start to the month of November in Phoenix. Just a little over a week away from Thanksgiving, will Mother Nature finally give in and provide fall-like weather for the holiday?

    More >

    We're currently tied for the fourth warmest start to the month of November in Phoenix. Just a little over a week away from Thanksgiving, will Mother Nature finally give in and provide fall-like weather for the holiday?

    More >