In less than 2 months (or August 21, 2017 to be exact), the total solar eclipse will hit our sky, and let’s just say we’re pretty excited. If you’ve got the date marked on your calendar (or wondering if you should), check out these tips from our guest Mark Bender, who’s been hunting eclipses since 1999, chasing them from Norway to Australia. He’s sharing 5 tips to watch the solar eclipse like a pro, so get ready for quite a show.

1. Make it educational.
Considering the last eclipse like this one happened 99 years ago, talk to your kids about how unique this experience is, and get them involved through cool activities. They can create a solar-themed craft ahead of time, and after the eclipse, ask them to draw, sketch, or paint what they’ve seen.

Artistic “captures” of the corona are as important as the professional photographs taken by scientists. And, the kids’ artwork can be submitted to the #ArtTheEclipse project to be included in their database.  Your kids’ vision of the event can make an important contribution to eclipse science.

2. Record the details.
Instead of taking pictures with a camera during the eclipse, try describing everything you and your family are seeing, and recording it on your phone. Describe every detail, like the size and shape of the corona and how far it spreads out from the black disk of the moon’s shadow. Ask the kids what they are thinking and feeling. And of course, your recording will capture plenty of cheering. It will be fun to go back later and listen.

Related: Here’s how to get the glasses you’ll need to see the total solar eclipse for free.

3. Be present in the moment.
The eclipse is shorter than you think. Make sure you let your kids know that the totality of the eclipse lasts only around 2 minutes. They may never get a chance to see one again, and there’s no rewind button. Don’t take your eyes off the eclipse. Don’t let other kids, food, music, or pets distract you. Enjoy the spectacle, and be fully present.

4. Be prepared for the weather.
Remember, the sun will be partially or even fully covered, depending on where you are, so the temperature is going to drop. You don’t want to be distracted by feeling chilly, so make sure you pack jackets or blankets to stay warm.

5. Watch safely.
Solar eclipse glasses are an absolute must. Looking at the sun before it’s fully covered can damage your eyes. For about 5 minutes before totality, the ambient light will take on a sharp gray hue. Looking through the glasses, you will see only a tiny sliver of sun left – but don’t take the glasses off! If it still looks like daytime (with the odd gray light) then the full eclipse hasn’t happened yet.

When it becomes as dark as night, the full eclipse has arrived. You can remove your glasses and look directly at the eclipse. The corona of the sun will have blossomed out from the black face of the moon. Enjoy the beautiful sight! But make sure to put the glasses back on when totality ends, after about 2 minutes. And if you are only seeing a partial eclipse, you must keep the glasses on for the entire time.

You can catch our special guest Mark Bender in the new docu-series Eclipse Across America that airs July 13, 2017 on CuriosityStream. And they’re kindly offering our readers a free 30 day subscription. Just click “Start Your Free Week” on their site, and choose the basic package. Once you register, enter the code “coolmom.” 

Image via Arno Lamprecht/Flickr Creative Commons