How to Survive the (Next) Eclipse

By Sophia Salamanca

The week before the solar eclipse, my phone’s notifications center was inundated with somewhat ominous messages. “Give us a call.” “We need to talk about your plans for Monday.” “Please be careful.” The source of these vaguely terrifying missives? My loving (and perhaps overly protective) parents. While a near-total solar eclipse had graced my hometown’s skies as recently as 2017 with little to no fussing from my parents, this year’s eclipse placed my parents squarely within its path of totality, inciting a weeks-long obsession with the eclipse and eclipse-related safety precautions. And, like the loving daughter that I am, I tried to listen. (Emphasis on tried.) My parents’ constant stream of messages and frantic phone calls invited mostly eye rolls and free exercise of my ability to decline their calls, but in the end I did follow most of their instructions on surviving the eclipse…and they worked as far as I can tell, considering that I’m alive enough to write this article. So, in case you’re worried about surviving the next eclipse, I’m here to share my generational wisdom. You can thank me later (read: in 20 years).

Do not look at the sun without eclipse glasses.

You’ve probably heard this one before, but it is worth repeating. As my mother reminded me at least five times, eclipse-related blindness is permanent. Telling your friends that you looked at the eclipse sans protective eyewear isn’t worth losing your ability to see, especially since that means that you won’t be able to (re)read this article in anticipation of the next solar eclipse. That said, based on this advice, you might think that I’ve exaggerated my parents’ neuroticism about this eclipse, but then you’d be ignorant to them advising me to…

Never look at anything without eclipse glasses.

My two-pack of eclipse glasses arrived in the mail three days prior to the eclipse, sans any effort on my part. I promptly gave away my second pair of glasses to a friend and ignored my parents’ comments about saving the second pair in case I damaged the first. (What do they think I’m doing with these?) I initially thought my parents’ advice to wear eclipse glasses all Monday seemed reasonable, at least while outdoors, but the minute I placed my glasses on my face for the first time, I realized that it was a bit misguided…mainly because you can’t see anything but the eclipse through the glasses. Thankfully, I did survive crossing the street while following this advice, but please don’t ask me how that was managed.

Stay inside during the eclipse.

This advice was entirely hypocritical considering that my parents and little sister were planning on watching the eclipse outside, but apparently I’m held to a higher standard. I followed this advice by watching the eclipse through a window (and my glasses), but I can tell you for a fact that at least 50 percent of eclipse-watchers did not and still seem to be breathing.

Do not ride the shuttle during the eclipse.

This piece of advice received the most objections from me, considering that I had to commute from the Square to Allston at 2:30 p.m. the afternoon of the eclipse, and considering my parents’ prior stipulation that I not be outside during the eclipse. However, my dad was awfully insistent that the mirrors on the shuttle would reflect the eclipse and wreak havoc on my eyesight, so I was instead directed to take an Uber. My dad was skeptical that Ubers would even be running during the eclipse — “you don’t understand, everyone drops everything for the eclipse” — but thankfully his doubts were for naught, and I made it to Allston, no shuttle required.

Skip any and all classes scheduled for eclipse day.

This was the one piece of advice that I made no effort to follow, considering that I had seven hours of class and no desire to navigate the consequences of skipping them later that week. When my dad mentioned that he thought that everyone should abandon all their responsibilities to watch the Sun hide behind the Moon, I briefly wondered if my parents had been replaced by aliens, but they answered all the stranger-danger questions correctly, so I guess that my dad just considers the eclipse a much more valid excuse for absenteeism than respiratory illness…

Do not eat during the eclipse.

I cannot provide any scientific justification for this one. My mom will tell you that she can, but I’m not so sure. My conversation with her went a little something like this: “Several scientists are saying that you shouldn’t eat during the eclipse.” “Which scientists?” “Several scientists.” I did follow this piece of advice, but I’m still waiting for the citations on these “scientists.” (Disclaimer: A quick Google search informed me that this piece of advice might be grounded in my family’s religious practices. However, I’m still not sure why my mom didn’t just say that outright, considering that I navigated the entire college admissions cycle according to the lunar calendar without objection.)

For legal reasons, I cannot guarantee that following these tips will save you from an untimely demise (at the hands of the sun???) during the next eclipse, but I have no evidence to the contrary. Several students endured seven hours (or more) in cramped cars to see the Moon overlap a little bit more perfectly with the Sun; what’s a little bit of suffering inconvenience to see the eclipse and live to tell the tale?

Flyby BlogFlyby FrontHow to Harvard

Harvard Today

The latest in your inbox.

Sign Up

Follow Flyby online.