What not to do the day of and during the total solar eclipse

by: Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Updated:

total solar eclipse is a rare and magnificent sight, especially for Americans, many of whom will experience their first and only total eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21.

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If you’re among the millions of Americans with plans to flock to cities along the path of totality, don’t let the excitement and adrenaline cloud your senses.

Here’s what not to do on the day of the total solar eclipse:

Have no plan whatsoever. If you plan on catching the event, you may want to already know where you’re headed, when you’re leaving and when you need to be there.

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Not have your items already packed. Try and have your gear (especially your solar eclipse safety equipment) packed and ready the night before to make your life easier. Use this eclipse packing list for help.

Wake up late. If you don’t wake up early enough to make the trip over, you’ll probably miss the total solar eclipse, which only lasts for an average of 2 minutes, depending on your location.

Forget to fill up gas. Whether you’re traveling to a small, rural town or a big, urban city, you shouldn’t rely on smooth traffic on your way to this mega event. Fill up your tank Sunday night and, if possible and necessary, have an extra tank with you.

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Only rely on your car’s or phone’s navigation systems. Print out copies of driving directions to your planned location as well as maps of the location itself. Cell service may not be the most reliable in many areas.

Have no idea what to expect. Aside from knowing where, when and how to tune in, give yourself a little educational lesson on this total solar eclipse. Know what to expect before, during and after totality as the moon passes in front of the sun.

Take it a step further and Download NASA’s GLOBE app, where you can register yourself as a citizen scientist.

Ignore eclipse safety guidelines. You must never look at the sun with your naked eye, especially during the partial phases of an eclipse. Doing so can potentially lead to severe eye damage and possibly blind you, according to NASA experts.

During the eclipse, use protective gear such as eclipse glasses, viewers, filters or other approved items. If you do not have these items, use a pinhole projector or pinhole camera to indirectly experience the eclipse.

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Wear sunglasses during the eclipse. Sunglasses, no matter how dark the lenses, are not protective enough to prevent damage from the sun’s rays. Feel free to wear sunglasses during the rest of your time.

Waste your time trying to photograph the eclipse. This is a brief, once-in-a-lifetime experience, so don’t worry about getting the best photo or video. Instead, consider using your phone or GoPro’s timelapse feature to document the experience as you take the celestial spectacle in for yourself.

But, if you must photograph the eclipse, make sure your gear has proper solar filter lenses, don’t use a flash, bring a tripod and bring extra batteries

Leave your glasses on during totality. Once the sky goes dark and the moon is illuminated by a fuzzy halo of sunlight, you’ve reached totality. Take your eclipse glasses off, put your pinhole projector or other equipment aside and enjoy the solar eclipse in all its totality.

>> RELATED: Can’t find eclipse glasses anywhere? Make these DIY pinhole cameras, projectors instead

Just focus on the sun during totality. Look around — it’s daylight and the Earth is totally dark. The temperatures have dropped and stars might be glimmering in the sky. Take everything in before the moment disappears.

Forget to put your glasses back on after the totality.Remember, the moment is brief and only lasts a couple of minutes, depending on your location. You must bring your protection gear and equipment back to watch the total eclipse return to its partial phases.