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How to Watch Next Week’s Partial Solar Eclipse Safely

Millions of people across North America could have a chance to observe a partial solar eclipse next week, weather permitting.

Although next Thursday's partial solar eclipse may not be as spectacular as a total eclipse, the sight of the moon gradually moving across the face of the sun still fills most people with awe.

The moon's shadow starts passing across Earth at 3:38 p.m. ET on Oct. 23, and the time of maximum eclipse is 5:45 p.m. ET. The eclipse ends when the moon's shadow leaves Earth at 7:52 p.m. ET.

Image: Partial solar eclipse
A partial solar eclipse shines over New York on Nov. 3, 2013. The partial eclipse of Oct. 23, 2014, can be seen just before sunset in New York, but only a sliver of the sun will be covered by the moon's disk. The viewing will be better farther west. Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images file

The best views of the eclipse will be in the north, in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic, but everyone in North America should see some of it, except in the extreme northeast of the continent. In eastern North America, the eclipse will be visible only near or at sunset, so a low western horizon is essential. [Find out how to see the partial solar eclipse using these sky maps]

In some ways a partial eclipse is the most dangerous to observe. People naturally want to look at it, and this defeats our normal reflex to look away from the sun. WARNING: Never look directly at the sun through binoculars, a telescope or with your unaided eye. Serious eye damage and even blindness can result. Scientists and experienced skywatchers use special filters and glasses to safely observe the sun.

The safest way to view a solar eclipse is by using a pinhole in a piece of cardboard to project the sun. This is particularly effective with an eclipse near sunset. Punch a hole a couple of millimeters in diameter in the middle of a piece of cardboard, and tape it against a west-facing window. This will project ant image of the eclipsed sun on a wall opposite.

Do not use binoculars or telescope to view the sun unless you have a properly designed solar filter. Do not improvise with home-brew solutions, as permanent eye damage is likely to occur.

— Geoff Gaherty, Starry Night Education
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If you take an amazing skywatching photo of the partial solar eclipse or any other celestial site that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

This is a condensed version of an article provided to Space.com by Simulation Curriculum, the leader in space science curriculum solutions and the makers of Starry Night and SkySafari. Read the full report. Follow Starry Night on Twitter. Follow Space.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.