8 Safety Tips for Watching the 2024 Solar Eclipse

The sun can do serious damage to your eyesight—even when it’s partially blocked by the moon. Whether or not you’ll be in the path of totality on April 8, 2024, follow these tips for a safe eclipse viewing experience.

People view the solar eclipse at Rockefeller Center on August 21, 2017, in New York City.
People view the solar eclipse at Rockefeller Center on August 21, 2017, in New York City. / Drew Angerer/Getty Images

North America is busy preparing for the next total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. Viewers in the path of totality—which stretches from Sinaloa in Mexico to Newfoundland in Canada—will be treated to up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds of uninterrupted darkness when the moon fully covers the sun. If you don’t live within the path, or you don’t feeling like braving the traffic to get there, a partial solar eclipse will still be visible throughout much of the contiguous U.S. (weather permitting). But enjoying it won’t be as easy as stepping into your backyard and looking up. If you’ve forgotten the protocol since the last great American eclipse in 2017, here are some important safety tips to keep in mind. 

1. Never stare at the sun with unprotected eyes.

Crowd viewing solar eclipse.
Crowd viewing solar eclipse. / Scott Olson/GettyImages

Hopefully you already know the No.1 rule of eclipse safety: Never stare directly at the sun without the proper safety equipment. Even when our solar system’s star is mostly covered, a sliver of radiation peeking past the moon is still enough to cause permanent damage to your retinas. This area in the back of the eyes is extremely sensitive to light, and direct exposure to ultraviolet rays can lead to scarring and a condition called “solar retinopathy.” Even if it doesn’t blind you fully, this type of injury can leave you with gray and blurry patches in your vision for the rest of your life.

2. Use certified eclipse glasses.

Woman viewing eclipse through protective glasses.
Woman viewing eclipse through protective glasses. / George Frey/GettyImages

The majority of the moon’s journey across the sun can only be viewed with special equipment. UV-filtering eclipse glasses are a popular option, as they provide the clearest look at the event leading up to totality. There will be a lot of subpar products flooding the market ahead of April 8, though. When shopping for a pair, be sure to look for the code ISO 12312-2; this indicates that they meet international safety standards. NASA doesn’t endorse any specific brand, so be wary of companies that claim they’re approved by the association. The American Astronomical Society has a list of recommended manufacturers on its website. Before wearing your glasses, check for issues like scratches and loose lenses. Damaged equipment may not work properly and could end up injuring your vision.

3. Wait for totality to remove your equipment.

Total solar eclipse over Chile in 2019.
Total solar eclipse over Chile in 2019. / Anadolu/GettyImages

The one exception to the No.1 eclipse viewing rule comes during the few minutes of totality when the moon fully covers the sun—and you need to be in the path of totality when this occurs. During this brief window, it’s safe to remove your viewing equipment and looking straight in the direction of the sun. Just be sure that totality has actually arrived before taking a look (and if you can’t tell, it hasn’t happened yet). The moment you notice the sun’s light return, look away and put your viewing glasses back on. You can check when totality will occur in many North American cities here.

4. View the eclipse indirectly.

Crescent shadows of partial solar eclipse viewed through a colander.
Crescent shadows of partial solar eclipse viewed through a colander. / Andrew Holt/The Image Bank/Getty Images

An alternative to solar viewing glasses is an old-fashioned pinhole projector. This allows you to indirectly view the event by casting the sun’s eclipsed light through a small hole and onto a flat surface. NASA has instructions for building an eclipse projector box on its website. If you aren’t able to DIY a viewing tool, the holes of a colander and even the gaps between a tree’s leaves can act as pinhole cameras during an eclipse. When using this method, always take care to look at the shadows the moon casts on the ground while keeping your back toward the sun. 

5. Practice skin safety.

Carol Yepes/Moment/Getty Images
Person applying sunscreen to arms. / Carol Yepes/Moment/Getty Images

Your eyes aren’t the only part of your body vulnerable to the sun’s rays. Standing beneath the sun for a prolonged period is just as likely to damage your skin on the day of an eclipse as it is any other time. Practice your regular skin safety routine to avoid a nasty burn the next day. Apply—and reapply—sunscreen to any exposed skin, including oft-neglected areas like ears, eyelids, and lips. A wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved clothing can help provide extra coverage. 

6. Buy a filter for your telescope.

Person viewing total solar eclipse through binoculars.
Person viewing total solar eclipse through binoculars. / Igor Chekalin/Moment/Getty Images

Even when viewed through the lenses of a telescope or binoculars, direct sunlight can still fry your retinas. If you plan on using magnifying equipment to see the event up close, you’ll need to procure special filters ahead of time. Many manufacturers of certified eclipse glasses also produce UV-filtering caps for telescope and binocular lenses. These devices are made of mylar or glass, and as is the case with eclipse glasses, they should be checked for wear and tear before use. Avoid filters that screw directly into the eyepiece of your viewing equipment; they can easily overheat and crack after just a few seconds of pointing at the sun. 

7. Have a travel plan.

Road sign in Utah warning of eclipse-related delays.
Road sign in Utah warning of eclipse-related delays. / George Rose/GettyImages

Towns in the path of totality are expecting a flood of visitors on April 8, and some have already declared a state of emergency in preparation. If you plan to be in the path of totality, you should also prepare for unprecedented levels of traffic. That means having a full tank of gas, any necessary medications, and plenty of snacks and water for the day. In addition to a cellphone, chargers, and an external battery, consider packing physical road maps. They could come in handy if cellular networks become overloaded during the exodus following totality [PDF]. It may be hard to find a viewing spot the day of, but resist pulling over on the side of a busy highway. Distracted eclipse viewers combined with fast-moving vehicles are a recipe for disaster. Instead, scope out an off-road site like a public park—or get in touch with that old friend who has a house in the path of totality. Make sure you leave early for the event and don’t make plans for the rest of day, as you’ll likely be spending it in on the road. 

8. Supervise your kids.

Child watching solar eclipse through protective glasses.
Child watching solar eclipse through protective glasses. / Daniel MacDonald/www.dmacphoto.com/Moment/Getty Images

A solar eclipse is an exciting experience for young people, but it can be dangerous if they don’t know the safety rules. Go over the protocol above with your children before and during the big event. Protective equipment like eclipse glasses should always be used with adult supervision. If your kids might be tempted to take off their glasses and sneak a peek at the sun, they probably shouldn’t be looking in that direction with or without protection. Instead, stick to indirect viewing methods like pinhole projectors (building the box can be a fun activity on its own).

If the only babies in your household are of the furry variety, don’t worry about protecting them from the eclipse. Pets will treat the sun the same as on any other day, though they may get confused when it suddenly gets dark in the middle of the afternoon.

Read More Eclipse Stories: