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What in the world is…the eclipse across America?


Depending on your age, you probably have a fond memory or two of experiencing an eclipse. Maybe you made your own sun funnel, solar viewing projector or other kid-friendly (and NASA-approved!) viewer. No matter how old you are, one thing is certain: Eclipses are cool. It’s in our human nature to find events like these fascinating—and because they are so rare and oftentimes limited in their viewing locations, we get excited when the opportunity rises to see an eclipse.

On Monday afternoon, August 21, all of North America will get to see a partial eclipse, where the moon obscures part of the sun—but if you live in certain parts of the country you might get to see a total eclipse, when the moon completely covers the sun. The total eclipse will be viewable to anyone within a 70-mile-wide path that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina:

map of where the solar eclipse will travel

[Image used with permission by NASA]

Dr. Sandeep Khanna, an ophthalmologist at Adventist Health White Memorial, shares the excitement regarding the upcoming eclipse—and he wants us to make sure we view it safely.

Just like staring at the sun, staring at an eclipse (unless it is in totality or “complete eclipse”) can cause damage to the retina and can lead to partial or total blindness. He explains that the damage caused by staring at the sun is related to UV radiation that destroys the different layers of the photoreceptors that allow us to see. “Common sense tells us not to stare directly at the sun,” says Dr. Khanna. “But with the eclipse, because of a lack of intensity in the light, it gives us a natural sense of comfort that it’s safer to look at—but those harmful rays are still there.” And these rays can cause irreparable damage to our eyes.

Moral of the story: Staring at the sun—unless it’s in totality, where the moon completely covers the sun—is a really bad idea.

But fear not! There are many safe ways to enjoy the “show”! Dr. Khanna suggests following the safety guidelines created by NASA to ensure you and your fellow eclipse-watching-peers can enjoy the view without risk. “Dark sunglasses, even if they have ‘UV protection’ written on them, will not work,” he says, adding that any device you use should be ISO-approved (meaning they meet specific standards for safely observing the sun), unscratched or damaged, and less than three years old. Eclipse glasses such as these are an easy, safe favorite among spectators. Other devices suggested by NASA (and how to make your own!) can be found here.

Dr. Khanna has seen a couple of eclipses in his lifetime, and he is very eager to take part in this rare event next month—and will be offering his patients opportunities to view it as well. According to NASA, the last total eclipse in the United States occurred on Feb. 26, 1979, and the last total eclipse that crossed the entire continent occurred on June 8, 1918. And the chances of experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live happens on average about once in 375 years.

Now that’s worth celebrating! Events like these are reminders that God gives us gifts in so many different ways, and enjoying this spectacular event is a great way to rally together with not just a few, but millions (around 500 million of them, in fact) of people across the country. And while you’re at it, why not host a viewing party?

For the latest eclipse news and to find out how you can view/stream the event in various ways that only NASA has the power to do (or to learn more about them in general, because we know you’re curious), check out NASA’s eclipse website here. Then head here to check out the interactive map that can tell you exactly what time the eclipse will be visible in your location. Happy viewing!


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