How to watch a total solar eclipse safely

A student in a McMaster sweatshirt wearing solar eclipse glasses and looking up at the sky

Looking directly at the Sun with the naked eye or through any device or filter other than ISO 12312-2:2015 certified eclipse glasses may cause permanent damage and even blindness. (Photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University).

Please note: As of April 3, all campus locations have run out of eclipse glasses.

You should never look at the Sun without proper protection. And for the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8th, you will need to take some extra precautions to protect your eyes.  

McMaster and Hamilton will be among the few places in North America to experience a total solar eclipse that day.  

A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes precisely between the Sun and Earth, completely blocking the face of the Sun. It results in an incredible phenomenon called totality, where the Sun and Moon perfectly align, casting a shadow on Earth.  

The eclipse will start at 2:03 p.m. and end by 4:30 p.m. The Moon will completely block the Sun for 96 seconds starting at 3:18 p.m., turning mid-afternoon into night and filling the sky with stars. 

Looking directly at the Sun with the naked eye or through any device or filter other than ISO 12312-2:2015 certified eclipse glasses may cause permanent damage and even blindness.  

Sunglasses, no matter how dark, do not offer sufficient protection.  

It is not safe to view the eclipse through a camera/phone lens, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.  

Staring at the sun without protection may cause damage to your retina (the tissue at the back of your eye) called solar retinopathy. This damage can occur without any sensation of pain. The injury can be temporary or permanent. 

ISO 12312-2:2015 certified eclipse glasses are available free-of-charge for all McMaster students, faculty, staff and community partners, courtesy of the Office of the Provost and the Faculty of Science. 

Here’s where you can pick up your eclipse glasses on campus:  
  • At the services desks of Thode, Mills and Health Sciences libraries 
  • At the Dean’s Office in the Faculty of Science (Room 102 in the Burke Science Building) 
  • At the Office of the Provost in University Hall (Room 201) 

McMaster is also partnering with the Hamilton, Burlington, Norfolk, Haldimand, Six Nations and Brantford Public Libraries to distribute eclipse glasses to community members.  

A pair of eclipse glasses with McMaster University branding on them

NASA’s tips for viewing the eclipse safety 

Looking at an eclipse can cause severe injury if proper precautions are not taken.  

Below are safety measures from NASA for viewing a total solar eclipse, both during the partial eclipse phases and totality (the brief window of time when the Moon precisely blocks out the Sun):  

  • View the Sun through certified eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer during the partial eclipse phases before and after totality.  
  • You can view the eclipse directly without proper eye protection only when the Moon completely obscures the Sun’s bright face – during the brief and spectacular period known as totality. (You’ll know it’s safe when you can no longer see any part of the Sun through eclipse glasses or a solar viewer.) 
  • As soon as you see even a little bit of the bright Sun reappear after totality, immediately put your eclipse glasses back on or use a handheld solar viewer to look at the Sun. 
  • Do NOT look at the Sun through a camera lens, telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while wearing eclipse glasses or using a handheld solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will burn through the filter and cause serious eye injury.    
  • Viewing any part of the bright Sun through a camera lens, binoculars, or a telescope without a special-purpose solar filter secured over the front of the optics will instantly cause severe eye injury. 
  • Always inspect your eclipse glasses or handheld viewer before use; if torn, scratched, or otherwise damaged, discard the device.  
  • Always supervise children using solar viewers. 
  • Remember to wear sunscreen, a hat, and protective clothing to prevent skin damage. 
  • Use an indirect viewing method, which does not involve looking directly at the Sun. 

Learn more from Dr. Kourosh Sabri, a professor in the Department of Surgery at McMaster, about the potential risks to your eyes during a solar eclipse:

Pedestrian and vehicle safety 

Please take extra caution if you are commuting or travelling during the eclipse.  

The City of Hamilton is anticipating people from out-of-town to travel to Hamilton to view the eclipse. This means an increased potential for traffic, distraction, congestion and risk of motor vehicle accidents during the afternoon of April 8th.  

Drivers are reminded to watch out for distracted pedestrians during this time.  

Drivers are also urged not to try to photograph the eclipse while driving. Only view the eclipse once safely parked and away from traffic and while using proper eye protection. Tinted vehicle windows do not offer sufficient protection for viewing an eclipse.  

Once the eclipse begins, the skies will darken. Use your vehicle’s full headlight system while driving.  

McMaster hosting eclipse viewing party  

McMaster is hosting a sold-out eclipse viewing party at the Ron Joyce Stadium on Monday, April 8th from 1-5pm. The afternoon event will feature food trucks, entertainment, McMaster physics and astronomy experts and a once-in-our-lifetime celestial event.  

Free eclipse glasses will also be available at the stadium for registered attendees.  

Other ways to take part on the day of  

Live streams 

You can live stream this rare celestial event via the official NASA broadcast, and Exploratorium 

McMaster Libraries 

All McMaster Libraries will be carrying a livestream of the eclipse on their digital screens on April 8, 2024.  

City of Hamilton designated viewing locations  

The City of Hamilton has designated six locations around the city for viewing the eclipse. Learn more here.  

Enjoy from home/school/work   

Look to the skies from wherever you happen to be on April 8th. Learn more about the path of totality through this Interactive Google Map from 

Learn more  

Learn more about how McMaster and the Department of Physics and Astronomy are marking the total solar eclipse here.

Related Stories