BRANCHBURG, NJ — As the public anxiously awaits the nation's first total solar eclipse since 1979, safety is extremely important for all eclipse viewers on Monday, August 21. Kevin Schindler, planetarium associate and technician at the Raritan Valley Community College Planetarium, offers TAPinto readers some expert advice.

Dubbed the Great American Eclipse, the solar/lunar event will begin at 1:22 p.m. in New Jersey, reaching its maximum at 2:45 p.m. when three-quarters of the sun will be cover, and ending about 4 p.m. Based on the latest weather forecast, skies are expected to be mostly clear across the state.

"Never look directly at the sun," Schindler said. "The best way to view a solar eclipse safely is to wear certified solar eclipse viewing glasses." The specialized glasses block dangerous infrared and ultraviolet rays, according to Schindler. The glasses also block most of the visible light.

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"Be sure that they are certified solar eclipse viewing glasses," he continued. "Sunglasses, no matter how good they may be, are not substitutes for the viewing glasses."  Sunglasses will not offer a dark enough tint to protect the viewer's eyes, according to Schindler.

Without certified viewing glasses, there are safe ways to observe projections of the eclipse, but Schindler emphasized again, "do not look at the sun at any time."

Schindler recommended the "projection method" for viewers (see photo at right) who are unable to obtain certified eclipse viewing glasses. To use the projection method, the eclipse viewer stands with his or her back to the sun. While facing away from the sun, the viewer then makes a waffle-shaped shadow on the ground with his or her fingers. The projection of the eclipse will then appear as a crescent in the shadow.

For more viewing techniques or more information, visit the American Astronomical Society's website.

Monmouth County Sheriff's Office also offers this Solar Eclipse Preparation Guide.