Earth has traveled nearly 40 times around the sun since the last time a total solar eclipse occurred in the United States. Now, we have the opportunity to observe such an event August 21, 2017. For two to three hours on Monday, Aug. 21, our contiguous states will witness a partial eclipse and a 70 mile wide sliver from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina will experience a remarkable total solar eclipse for the first time since 1979. The extent of this anomaly is remarkable considering the nation;s last total solar eclipse in 1970 only skirted the eastern seaboard.

However, watching a solar eclipse isn't as simple as looking upward. Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total eclipse. The sun's energy can actually burn a hole in a person's retina, the inner lining of the eye. Think about how a magnifying lens can be used to focus the suns rays to burn a piece of paper. This too occurs as the eye focuses on the sun. America's eye care experts recommend careful safe viewing of this celestial event.

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through eclipse glasses or filters. Thee can be purchased at many retailers on online. The majority of Americans will need some form of indirect viewer or solar filter because they won;t be in the path of totality. A pinhole projector can easily be made a home. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for example, has step-by-step instructions for building such a projector. Unsafe viewing devices would include "black" developed color film, sunglasses, photographing filters, polarizing filters, smoked glasses, CDs/DVDs, space blankets, mylar balloons or food wrappers. Any viewing of the sun or partial eclipse can cause solar retinopathy and vision loss.

Know your duration. Removing eye protection too soon, or replacing it too late, can produce an uncomfortable ghost image that will lesson your viewing experience. Be prepared. Please plan ahead by obtaining proper viewing eye protection. Research the time of the eclipse in your area and make a point to attend a performance of the century. We should all make it a point to enjoy this rare event.