How to safely view the 2017 solar eclipse in the air or from the ground

If you’re the type who plans in advance and you’ve already got your hands on a pair of solar filters (aka, eclipse glasses), you’re in luck. You’re all set to safely watch the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017.

If you’re the planning-ahead type and fortunate enough to be sitting in a window seat (hint: choose the “A” side of the plane) on one of three WestJet flights that will likely pass through the “zone of totality” of the solar eclipse, then you are set for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our Operations team has crunched the numbers and estimated that the following WestJet flights on August 21 have the best chance of passing through the zone of total eclipse:

  • WS 1402 Calgary (YYC) to Phoenix (PHX) –  10:25 a.m. departure
  • WS 1534 Calgary (YYC) to Houston (IAH) –  10:25 a.m. departure
  • WS 1582 Calgary (YYC) to Dallas (DFW) –  10:15 a.m. departure

Now, if you’re on one of these flights, or one of hundreds of other WestJet flights that will also provide viewing opportunities of the partial solar eclipse, or if you’re planning on watching the eclipse from the ground, read on for some important information on how to watch a solar eclipse safely.

We took a look at the info provided by the Canadian Space Agency, NASA, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. They pretty much all say the same thing: eye safety is important and your regular sunglasses are not designed to protect you if you look directly at the sun. You need special glasses to safely watch a solar eclipse.

Young girl with red hair watching the annular solar eclipse with special viewing glasses.

What you need to know about safely viewing a solar eclipse

In order to safely view a solar eclipse, special solar filters that meet ISO 12312-2 international safety standards are required. If you don’t already have a pair of solar filters, you may be out of luck as most places that carry eclipse glasses are reportedly sold out.

Make sure that your solar filters are not damaged or scratched before use.

Regular sunglasses, even those with very dark tint, do not provide adequate protection.

Staring directly at the sun without proper protection can damage your retina. Damage can occur without pain and can be temporary or permanent.

Damage to your eye can also occur if you look at a solar eclipse through a camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device without proper solar protection.

You can see that there’s a great emphasis on safety when experts advise us on how watch a solar eclipse. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada perhaps says it best: “Approved eclipse glasses or approved eclipse filters must be used at ALL times when looking at the sun. Serious and irreversible eye damage may result from looking at the sun without approved safety equipment.”

So, while taking a mature approach to eye safety during the eclipse, also make sure your kids (or any friends or relatives who act like kids) are also safe.

What you can do if you don’t have solar filters

An eclipse projector is always a good option to safely view a solar eclipse. The Canadian Space Agency provides fantastic instructions on how to build an eclipse projector.

Check out one of the many viewing events across Canada if you’d like to join in. Some events may have solar filters for people to use, or an alternate way to watch the eclipse.

Watch the eclipse via a live stream on the Internet. Here is NASA’s live stream, where they are tracking the total eclipse across the United States.

When is it all going to happen?

The exact eclipse times will vary across the continent.  Here is a great resource, courtesy of NASA, that shows the time and percentage of eclipse to expect in various locations across North America. (Click to enlarge)

Map of Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017

Photo credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The Royal Astronomical Society provides a great list of eclipse times in various cities.  It indicates what time the eclipse will start, when mid-eclipse will occur and what time it will end in each location.

The Canadian Space Agency also provided this graphic, which shows the maximum eclipse times in many cities across Canada.

Map of times for eclipse in Canadian cities

Photo credit: Canadian Space Agency

We wish you a safe and enjoyable eclipse viewing and look forward to seeing all your eclipse photos and videos (taken safely, of course). Be sure to share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by tagging us (@WestJet) and adding the #WestJet hashtag.