Expert explains viewing the eclipse through a telescope

LAS VEGAS - All eyes will be on the sky Monday when the spectacular total solar eclipse crosses the continental U.S. from Oregon to the Carolinas.

And while southern Nevada won't be in the direct path of the total eclipse, a large portion of the sun will still be covered by the moon's shadow and that has Las Vegans excited to see it, too.

An expert with the Las Vegas Astronomical Society says it's the event of the century and there are many ways to see it for yourself.

Fascination with gazing into space started at a very early age for Greg McKay, and so it's no surprise he is over the moon anticipating the celestial event of a century.

"The one thing my wife is worried about is that I'm going to get addicted to total solar eclipses and I'm going to start chasing them all over the planet," he said.

As president of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society, McKay is an expert at viewing objects in our solar system, but staring directly at the sun is much more dangerous than gazing at the moon and stars.

McKay explains what allows him to do it safely through a telescope.

"There's a solar filter. It blocks out 99.99 percent of the visible light and 100 percent of the infrared and ultraviolet light."

It's that certified filter that makes it safe for the human eye to stare at the fiery star burning at 10,000 degrees fahrenheit. 

Millions of star gazers are hoping to watch the moon's shadow move across the sun and turn day to night but it has to be seen safely.

"If I were to take that filter off right now and you were looking through the eyepiece, you would instantly be blinded," McKay said.

A popular, convenient, and cheap way to do it is with portable cardboard glasses - made with the same high-powered and safe filter. 

"On the inside of outside leg of the glasses, you'll see an ISO certification. That means the glasses have been tested by a lab and have been approved to block out, to filter that light," McKay said.

Even though southern Nevada won't be in the path of the total eclipse, we'll still get to see a majority of it.

"What we'll have here in Las Vegas is a partial eclipse. What you'll see here is a little orange crescent because 72 percent of it's going to be covered by the moon. People still think they'll be able to take the glasses off and look up - you can't."

After viewing this rare event Monday, McKay says maybe we will appreciate the sun a little more when we see how it can quickly it can disappear.

"It's amazing. It's the source of of life on our planet. And to think how fortunate we that if we were a little bit closer to the sun, it'd be too hot for life to exist on earth and if we were a little bit too far out and it would be too cold. We just happen to live in that perfect zone where it makes life possible."

McKay is heading to Rigby, Idaho to be in the path of the total eclipse and is part of the movie team photographing the event.


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