Today, August 21, marks the day of the solar eclipse. You probably already know that you shouldn’t look at the sun during the eclipse with the naked eye. But did you know that you shouldn’t look at it with a camera either? As it turns out, you could melt the insides of your camera while pointing it at the solar eclipse.
Some Safety Rules
First things first. Never, ever, ever, look at a solar eclipse without the right viewing gear. What is the right viewing gear? A special pair of glasses -- sunglasses will not work! -- that have the right kind of UV filter; a pinhole device (check out the NASA website to see this option); or view the eclipse on the Internet (various news stations will be broadcasting the eclipse online).
NASA also lists ways that you can view the eclipse using your fingers or through trees -- but, again, never look at it with your naked eye.
So what about your iPhone or a camera? If you point a regular camera at the eclipse without the right filter, the inside of your camera will literally begin to melt. That’s right, melt. So don’t do it. Your iPhone is a bit different.
Using Your iPhone to See the Eclipse
Your iPhone is different than a regular camera. Most smartphones (Android included) have the right built-in UV filters. So you can point your iPhone at the sun to view the eclipse -- but, wait! Don’t look through your phone directly. Use ‘selfie mode’ or a selfie stick to view the eclipse safely. You can also set the time lapse mode on your phone to capture the full eclipse without looking at it directly (you can view it in on your phone’s screen, though).
Another good way to use your phone to see the eclipse is with a tripod. If you set up your phone on a tripod and use it to film the sun’s covering, you will get a video of the eclipse without actually looking at it. So, yes, you can use your phone to see the eclipse, but you still can’t look directly at the sun during an eclipse - even through your phone.
What Is Actually Happening
You probably know that the sun will be blocked out during the eclipse. You might even know that this is the first eclipse since the 1800s to cover almost the entire United States (and even parts of Canada!). But did you know that an eclipse happens somewhere in the world four to five times per year?
What is an eclipse exactly? If you skipped school the day that eclipses were explained, here’s a brief science lesson for you. An eclipse happens when the Earth, moon, and sun form a perfect and direct line. The moon effectively blocks the sun causing a shadow to be cast over the Earth. The eclipse will last two to three minutes, and it can only be seen in its entirety in the United States across the ‘Path of Totality.’ Most of the states that will see a complete solar eclipse are mid-west and southern states, but the rest of the United States (and parts of Canada) will see a partial eclipse.
Should you bother watching it? That’s up to you - but make sure that you use your smartphone correctly or have the right glasses to see it. Otherwise, you will cause damage to your retina that is irreversible, or you could melt your camera.