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Your Guide to Watching the Upcoming Solar Eclipse

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Photo: Rodin Shutterstock

Unless you've been living under a rock as big as the moon, you probably know about the upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21. In case you don't recall what that is from high school science class, this rare astronomical event occurs when the moon slides between sun and Earth. Pretty cool, huh?

According to NASA, most of the 50 U.S. states will be afforded at least a partial view of this celestial wonder. Along the path of the moon, certain areas of the country will even see a moment of totality, when the moon fully obscures the view of the sun. Check out this map to see exactly what the moon's trajectory will be. Basically, the moon will travel from the West Coast, cutting across the upper portion of the country, on a diagonal path through Nebraska, Missouri, and Tennessee, ultimately ending around Charleston, South Carolina, before heading out to sea.

You can also watch the eclipse on live streaming video on August 21, on NASA's website.

It's important to know that you should never look directly at the sun's rays without special eclipse glasses, or else you could permanently damage your eyes.

"When you're staring at the sun, you're actually getting a direct concentration of solar rays inside the eye," says Weslie Hamada, O.D., optometrist and expert for Acuvue. "That will go directly to the delicate tissue at the back of the eye called the retina, and can cause permanent severe damage." (And, no, UV-protecting glasses or contacts like Acuvue's—yes, they're a thing—don't offer enough protection in this case.)

Here's a list of American Astronomical Society approved vendors that sell safe eclipse glasses for you and your fam. Just be careful! According to CNN Money, some companies have been stamping their glasses with a phony International Organization for Standardization (ISO) seal.

"It now appears that some companies are printing the ISO logo and certification label on fake eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers made with materials that do not block enough [light]," the AAS said. Yikes!

Once you get your hands on safe viewing glasses, it's time to plan your eclipse party, of course. Check out this out-of-this-world cocktail recipe for the adults. And for the junior astronomers in the house, try this chocolate moon cake recipe that will skyrocket the fun to another level. Or, bake up some black velvet cupcakes with galaxy frosting that are sure to be gobbled up faster than you can say, "solar eclipse!" Happy viewing!

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