An annular solar eclipse is rare. But one that so many people in north India can observe from their balconies is rarer still. Of course, this comes with a few caveats.

One, people who are farther up north will have a ringside view whereas many others may only see a darkening of the skies when the moon passes between the earth and sun from 9.15 am to 3.04 pm on June 21, 2020.

Two, seeing a solar eclipse is a privilege that should be handled with responsibility. Way back in the 1940s, doctors discovered that looking at the solar eclipse directly could burn the macula in your eyes and cause permanent damage.

An annular solar eclipse is one in which the sun is visible as a gold ring around the moon. This rare and beautiful celestial event is also known as "ring of fire". 

The sun is widely considered a life force. For anyone interested in the workings of the universe, solar eclipse 2020 represents an exciting opportunity to marvel at this world. Here are a few quick things you must do before stepping out to witness this spectacular celestial event:

1. Make your own projector

To see the eclipse, you can make a simple cardboard projector at home.

What you will need:

  • Two sheets of stiff white cardboard, any size is fine. But roughly 10 x 12 inches might be easy for you to hold and manoeuvre.
  • A sharp pin

What to do:

  • Use the pin to make a perfectly round, tiny hole in the middle of sheet one
  • Stand with your back to the sun and raise the sheet with the hole in it slightly over your shoulder
  • Place sheet two in such a way that the sun can shine through the hole in sheet one to shine on sheet two
  • See the eclipse only on sheet two. You can keep adjusting the position of the sheets till you get a satisfactory view

Remember, UV-protected sunglasses are not the same as specialised glasses for looking at a solar eclipse. So while you should wear sunglasses if you step out—even for a little bit—you should not attempt to look at the sun directly while wearing sunglasses. Doctors warn that the radiation from the sun can burn the macula in our eyes and cause irreparable dark spots in the vision if we look at it directly during an eclipse.

2. Don't forget the sunscreen

Lather on SPF 30 or more every time you step out. Reapply the sunscreen if you feel it's rubbed off. It's important to protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays, so use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection from both.

3. Let technology do the work for you

If you have access to an Internet connection on your phone or computer, log in to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics live stream to get a minute-by-minute on the eclipse.

Whichever way you choose to partake in this event, stay safe and have fun!

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