If there’s just one expert on Earth who you should listen to when it comes to the upcoming total solar eclipse, it’s famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. The science icon and space-themed tie collector recently said you have no excuse to skip the historic celestial spectacle on August 21, but if you can’t make it to the area along the path of totality and can’t get special glasses in time, he’s also got some brilliant advice on how to safely watch the eclipse at the last minute.
During a panel discussion on Monday at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium, Tyson discussed the basics on the best ways to experience the eclipse alongside Jackie Faherty, a senior scientist and education manager at the planetarium, and Joe Rao, a planetarium associate and meteorologist for Verizon FIOS1 News. While all three experts strongly urged every American to travel to the eclipse’s path -- spanning Oregon to South Carolina -- to witness the stunning darkness when the moon completely obscures the sun, they also recommended attending a viewing event at the planetarium if you’re in the NYC area where free eclipse glasses will be on hand. However, if you’re stuck at home or at the office and lack the protective eyewear, Tyson offered a simple hack that allows you to see the eclipse unfold without, well, going blind.
"OK, here’s what you do,” he said. “If you can’t come here, you can’t go to totality, and you don’t have eclipse glasses, here’s what you do: go into your kitchen and get a spaghetti strainer, or colander -- not the mesh, but the kind with holes in it -- and go outside and hold it out over the ground. Each one of those holes will act as pinhole camera and you’ll see hundreds of images of the crescent sun on the ground, and you can watch the eclipse unfold safely.”
Yeah, you read that correctly. All you need is a simple colander and a clear patch of sidewalk and you’ve got what he dubbed as “the urban version of watching the pinhole camera images through the mottled light of sunlight passing through the leaves of a tree.” Tyson claims it’ll be fun watching the eclipse take place on the ground, but then again, watching other people hold colanders over the sidewalk in public will probably be fun, too.
The bottom line: don’t miss the eclipse and don’t hurt destroy your eyes trying to watch it. Sure, the total solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but you also only get one set of eyes in your lifetime. Don’t mess this up.