This is a biggie. You CANNOT look at the Sun while ANY PART of its bright disk is still visible. The moon does cover quite a bit of it during the partial phases leading up to totality, but you HAVE to use special solar viewing glasses (also called “eclipse glasses”) to look at it during the partial phases. You MUST use these glasses to look at the sun during this time, and if you use them correctly (according to the instructions printed on them), it’s 100% safe.
During the brief period of totality ONLY, when NO bright part of the sun is showing, you can look directly at the totally eclipsed sun without any kind of filters, and you will not believe the sight. In fact, during totality ONLY, you can even look with binoculars if you want. The view is simply stunning. BUT, IMMEDIATELY after totality, (as soon as you see the really bright diamond ring effect again, when the bright part of the Sun returns to view), the glasses have to come back on.
We have created eclipse viewing instructions that summarize this (with pictures!) and give you GREAT detail.
(Eclipse viewing instructions are also available in many languages – we’re serious about bringing information to all our guests from around the world!)
To repeat: You MUST use the eclipse glasses whenever the Sun is not TOTALLY eclipsed – whenever ANY bright piece of it is visible. No matter what “eclipse times” you may get off the internet, or out of any books or magazines – or even off this site! And you CAN look directly at the sun without the glasses ONLY during the very brief time when the sun is in total eclipse (that is, if you’re in the path of totality!). It’s only a few minutes or so at the most, but the memory of it will last your lifetime.
If you’re not in the path of totality, you have to use the glasses for the ENTIRE eclipse, and you will not see any of the cool things during totality that will amaze you. It is an interesting experience, but you will not have the excitement of totality. You will certainly see the pictures of the spectacular total eclipse online the next day, and go away wondering what all the fuss was about.