This summer is an interesting one for us. We kicked off the beginning of summer by moving (something we really dislike). A few weeks later, we got married in California (something we really liked). Now, as we’re boring and staying in, we need to continue to save money for our house that’s under construction.
We’ve been having to find relatively frugal things to do most of the time, and while it can be easy sometimes, at other times it’s extremely challenging. I’ve neglected seeing movies in theaters I otherwise would have. The thought of $50 on a movie night for tickets and dinner just isn’t something I can splurge on right now.
There is, however, one thing I’m really looking forward to this month (well, August). If you have been living under a rock, you might need a quick reminder. There is a complete solar eclipse tracking across the entire contiguous United States on August 21st.
We’re not traveling for it, so we’ll only experience a partial eclipse, but it’s still an amazing phenomenon that can be experienced for free or a small amount of money. If you’re interested in observing it, it’s important that you do so with proper protection.
About Solar Eclipses
Quick primer on a solar eclipse: The Earth rotates on an axis, which means that the moon shifts in the night sky depending on a number of different factors. The moon’s orbit is also not completely circular (neither is that of Earth). The moon is the perfect size and distance from us that it actually appears to be the same size as the sun.
When everything aligns, the moon will occasionally pass directly in front of the sun. Doing so allows observers on Earth to view the outer portions of the sun’s atmosphere without viewing the rest of the star. Since the orbit path isn’t exactly perfect, it happens pretty infrequently; it’d happen each month, otherwise.
August 21st Eclipse
August 21st will be the first total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States in nearly 100 years (99 to be more precise). As such, it is likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for folks who are either in or can travel to the areas of the country where it can be experienced in its entirety.
We’re in Minnesota, which is not in the path of the complete solar eclipse.
We will, however, receive between 80% and 90% coverage, and that means it’ll be a spectacular event to observe. As a little bit of a space nerd, this presents one of the coolest ways to enjoy the incredible nature of the solar system and just geek out for a bit. We don’t need to travel to view it. I am planning on working outside between 11:30 and 1:30 to observe it.
If you’re going to be viewing the solar eclipse, PLEASE take the necessary precautions. Think about it: you’re looking at the damn sun! The sun is a star that harnesses the power contained in the nucleus of atoms. It’s the brightest thing in our sky and can easily cause blindness if you look at it. Many people think that since the moon is in front of the sun, you’ll be able to look right at it. Still probably a bad idea.
It’s a good idea to review NASA’s safe viewing guidelines.
For less than $15 you can pick up some ISO-certified eclipse viewing glasses from Amazon. I just got my 10-pack delivered today, and am bringing them to work to let others use them. If you have nerdy friends – or basically anybody you know, because it’s still pretty cool – you can have 10 people chip in less than two bucks each and get a pair of glasses.
There may be some free options in your community. Thousands of local libraries will be having viewing parties and many provide glasses for you. Make sure they abide by the safe viewing guidelines linked above. Unfortunately the closest one to us is still a bit out of the way, so I will just be working and eating lunch outside.
Will you be observing the August 21st Solar Eclipse? What other frugal fun summer plans do you have??