What you need to know before the eclipse

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


For months, news streams across the country have been filled with commentary about The Great American Solar Eclipse that will cross over 14 states on Monday - and for good reason. The natural phenomenon is rare in and of itself, requiring perfect alignment of the Earth, moon and sun, and, according to scientists, often occurs over water sources or other locations uninhabited by humans. 

This occurrence is particularly rare since it is the first to cover the continental U.S. in 99 years and the first to stay completely in the U.S. since 1776. Its path of totality will stretch 70 miles wide and ripple through the skies from, you guessed it, Oregon to South Carolina.

For us in Wilson, even though we aren't in the "path of totality," we can expect to see a partial solar eclipse - 91 percent coverage of the sun. On Monday, from 1:18 to 4:06 p.m., we will witness a partial solar eclipse, with the maximum coverage occurring at 2:46 p.m. and only lasting a couple of minutes.

Before The Great American Solar Eclipse leaves its mark on history, there are several things we all need to know.

  • Protect your eyes. According to experts at NASA, special solar filters are required to protect your eyes from the harmful rays. These special eclipse glasses should be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standards and purchased from a reputable vendor. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses are not strong enough to look directly at the sun. Doing so can cause permanent damage or blindness to your eyes. And for those of you hoping to steal some images of the spectacular sight, be sure to take the right precautions. A special solar filter (in addition to your protective eyewear) is needed to protect your camera and your eyes. It might be best to leave the photographs to the professionals and just enjoy the moment. Learn more safety tips from NASA here: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.
  • Plan for more people on the roads. Approximately 200 million people live within a day's drive of the path of the total eclipse. That means there will likely be more people on the roads, traveling to areas that are in the path of totality.
  • Pack some water. If you're planning to attend an eclipse viewing party in or out of town or just witness it in your own backyard, make sure you stay hydrated. It's the middle of August, and it will be hot!
  • Protect your skin. Whether it's a partial, total or non-eclipse, protecting your skin against the harmful rays of the sun is always smart. Make sure you use sunscreen and reapply regularly, or cover your skin with clothing, if you plan to be outside for long periods.

For more information about The Great American Solar Eclipse, visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/interactive_map/index.html.

Ronald Stahl, MD, is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.