partial solar eclipse
A partial solar eclipse, where the moon only blocks a section of the sun.

Matt Hecht

Most days we barely give the giant, searing-hot ball of plasma in the sky a second thought.

That will change dramatically on Monday, August 21: when the total solar eclipse sweeps across the continental United States for the first time in nearly 100 years.

If you’re not careful, though, the sun can still rapidly scorch your eyeballs.

While the moon will at least partially block the sun for the entire nation, the glowing crescent left behind will emit ultraviolet rays — the same light that causes sunburn — and could damage the light-sensing cells of your eyes’ retinas. Even looking with normal sunglasses can lead to solar retinopathy, a condition that can temporarily blind you, lead to missing spots in your vision, or even cause permanent blindness.

The only safe time to look at the solar eclipse with the naked eye, according to NASA, is during totality: where the moon’s fullest, darkest umbral shadow touches. But only a small piece of America will experience its magic (and for less than three minutes of the entire two- to three-hour eclipse, depending on the location).

united states us total solar eclipse map august 21 2017 nasa gsfc svs
A US map of the total solar eclipse’s shadow on August 21, 2017.

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

The good news is that there are several easy ways to safely watch the eclipse — even if you’re not in the path of totality, or you are and want to look at the sun beforehand.

Here are seven of the best methods.

1. Solar glasses or viewers

1. Solar glasses or viewers
Thomson Reuters

If you’re just now reading this and hope to buy a pair of eclipse sunglasses, or a one-sheet viewer, you may be out of luck — many online retailers are selling out.

If you have a friend who’s an astronomy buff, though, chances are high they’ll have an extra pair collecting dust. You might also stop into your local library, astronomy club, or NASA event site and try to grab a free solar viewer.

NASA has also compiled a list of reputable manufacturers, sellers, and brands that meet strict standards — but beware of unscrupulous sellers pushing knock-off eclipse glasses to make a buck off desperate buyers. (If something seems fishy, it probably is.)

2. Welder’s glass rated shade-12 or higher

2. Welder's glass rated shade-12 or higher
Cancan Chu / Getty

Day-in and day out, welder’s glass is designed to protect a worker’s eyes from bursts of UV light that acetylene torches give off. This can also make…

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