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| Human World | Space on May 08, 2013

How can I watch the May 9-10 solar eclipse safely … or online?

Safe viewing methods, and a link to online viewing of the May 9-10 “ring of fire” annular eclipse.

Whether you’re in a location to view the May 9-10 “ring of fire” annular eclipse, or not, this post can help you see it. If you’re not in the eclipse path, look here or here for online viewing. If you’re in eclipse path, you must find a way to protect your eyes. Amateur astronomer with a telescopes will be using safe solar filters on the sky end of their ‘scopes to watch the eclipse. If you don’t have this setup, you still have options. Just remember, east of the International Date Line, the ring of fire eclipse happens May 9, but if you’re in Australia, the eclipse happens after sunrise May 10.

Online viewing.

A home-rigged, indirect viewing method.

Local viewing at astronomy club, park or nature center.

Commercial solar eclipse glasses.

Welder’s glass, #14 or darker.

Whatever you do, never look at the sun directly without a safe filter in place to protect your eyes. Besides your unprotected eyeballs, here are some other things you should not use. Do NOT use sunglasses, polaroid filters, smoked glass, exposed color film, x-ray film, or photographic neutral density filters.

May 10, 2013 annular eclipse of the sun, visible in Australia and into the South Pacific.

May 10, 2013 annular eclipse of the sun, visible in Australia and into the South Pacific. Narrow yellow path in middle: annular solar eclipse. Large swath of blue surrounding yellow path: partial solar eclipse. Illustration by Michael Zeiler.

Viewing the sun with a safe solar telescope. Image via

Online viewing. Obviously, this method is the one of choice if the May 9-10, 2013 solar eclipse takes place when it is nighttime outside for you, or if you’re otherwise in the wrong part of the world to see it. The disadvantage here is that you won’t have the fun of seeing the event with your family, friends and neighbors. But any view of the eclipse is better than none. We recommend two online possibilities. The first is Slooh.com, which put on a fantastic show for the May 20-21, 2012 annular solar eclipse. The second was recommended by Spaceweather.com, which is always a winner.

A home-rigged, indirect viewing method Creating a pinhole camera is another great option, because it lets families and friends get a good view of the transit together. We recommend this article by the masters of do-it-yourself science at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Their article on how to view solar eclipses safely teaches you to make an easy pinhole projector. With it, you can shine the sun’s image onto a flat surface and impress your friends and neighbors while giving everyone (including yourself) a cool experience.

Local viewing at astronomy club, park or nature center. We highly recommend this route for any kind of eclipse, or any astronomical event. If you watch among other amateur astronomers and casual sky gazers, you’ll have fun, learn about astronomy and get the best possible view in your location. Find astronomy clubs or events in your location

Commercial solar eclipse glasses. You might find these online or at a local nature center, or museum.  Solar eclipse glasses are super easy to use, and they’re sort of cool-looking.  Search on the words “solar eclipse glasses [your country].” I’ve ordered them from Rainbow Symphony.  

Welder’s glass, #14 or darker. Be sure it is #14 or darker. The great thing about welder’s glass is that it allows you to view an eclipse directly. Plus welder’s glass is a bit more durable than commercial eclipse glasses. If you’re like me, you’ll forget where you put the commercial eclipse glasses by the next eclipse. With the welder’s glass, you can always add it to your rock collection.  Search for a local “welding supply” company.

Big fun in Austin, Texas at the May 20, 2012 solar eclipse when an EarthSky employee passed out solar eclipse glasses at a local restaurant.

Viewing the May 20, 2012 solar eclipse through welder's glass

Bottom line: You several options for safely viewing the May 9-10, 2013 annular – ring of fire – eclipse. Info here about indirect viewing through a pinhole camera, finding a local viewing event, watching online, commercial eclipse glasses, welder’s glass. Never look at the sun directly without protecting your eyes!

Hear from an expert: Eye safety during solar eclipses