How to watch August’s total solar eclipse without actually going outside

Total Solar Eclipse app
The Exploratorium’s Total Solar Eclipse app helps you maximize your eclipse experience no matter where you are. (Exploratorium via YouTube)

Even though the track of a total solar eclipse will stretch from America’s West Coast to the East Coast on Aug. 21, not everyone will get to see the spectacle in the skies above. Fortunately, there’ll be alternate ways to watch.

For those who are inside a roughly 70-mile-wide path, seeing totality is as easy as looking up. (But remember to keep your eclipse glasses on for the partial phase).

For others, the logistical difficulties might be too great. Many campsites are selling out, the roads are expected to be packed, clouds are sure to block the view in some places, and others simply may not have the day off work that Monday.

But no one who can get online has to miss out on the first total solar eclipse to sweep across America in 99 years. Now, there are apps for that, and live-video streams as well.

Total Solar Eclipse App

The Exploratorium, San Francisco’s world-famous science museum, has just released an app called Total Solar Eclipse for iOS and Android. After downloading the free app, users can watch live streams with several audio options, including commentary from Exploratorium educators and NASA scientists, Spanish-language commentary, or music from the Kronos Quartet.

The Exploratorium will also show silent feeds of the eclipse from Madras, Ore., and Casper, Wyo. Madras will get about two minutes of totality starting at 10:19 a.m. PT, and Casper will provide a slightly longer dose starting at 10:42 a.m. PT (11:42 a.m. MT).

Robyn Higdon, the Exploratorium’s director of museum experience, says the app isn’t just a three-hour live feed. It’s also a resource for science enthusiasts wanting to understand the physics behind the phenomenon.

“It includes a lot of basic astronomical science, but for those who want to go deeper it also provides a chance to spend time exploring past astronomical events and some fascinating principles of physics responsible for the mechanics of an eclipse,” she said in a statement.

2017 Solar Eclipse Megacast

NASA is hosting a live broadcast on NASA TV, news stations and online streaming services such as UStream and YouTube. The four-hour 2017 Solar Eclipse Megacast will get nationwide coverage with the help of students participating in the Eclipse Ballooning Project. The teams will fly weather balloons with cameras attached and send back footage to the live stream.

Seattle’s 12-year-old Rebecca Yeung and 10-year-old sister Kimberly, famous for launching the Loki Lego Launchers, will be among the teams flying balloons into the stratosphere on the big day.

The live stream will also have feeds from airplanes, ground telescopes and dozens of sites along the path of totality.

To get ready for the eclipse and NASA’s coverage, check out the space agency’s Eclipse 2017 website.

Eclipse road trips

The Slooh online observatory will be streaming video views of the total solar eclipse, but it’s also planning a real-world party for’s registered members.

The “Road Trip” party begins on Aug. 18 at the Elk Creek Campgrounds in Sawtooth National Forest, near Stanley, Idaho. The celebration continues until Aug. 22, the day after the eclipse. Among the hosts will be Slooh astronomers Paul Cox and Bob Berman.

Science Channel will be streaming live coverage of totality on TV and Facebook Live from Madras and other locations across the country in cooperation with the Lowell Observatory. After the eclipse, the channel will air a prime-time recap titled “The Great American Eclipse.”

Meanwhile, the nonprofit Planetary Society is setting up shop in Carbondale, Ill., for Planetary Radio’s eclipse coverage. Planetary Radio’s Mat Kaplan will host a live stage show on Aug. 20 as well as the next day’s eclipse show at Southern Illinois University’s Saluki Stadium.

Sky maps for your phone

Point your smartphone to the sky, and the Mobile Observatory app will tell you which celestial objects you’re looking at. It’s a cool feature, because during totality, the dark sky makes it possible to see stars and planets. The app can tell you exactly what you’re looking at.

Mobile Observatory is an Android app, but there are similar apps for other types of mobile devices, such as SkySafari and Star Walk.

Eclipse map
This map shows the track of totality passing over the United States on Aug. 21. Click on the image for a larger PDF version. (NASA Map)

More apps to take to totality

If the stars align and you are able to check out the all-American eclipse, here are a few more apps to put in your pocket-sized eclipse tool belt.

  • Solar Eclipse Timer: The total solar eclipse is a rare event, and this app realizes that people won’t want to take their eyes off it for a second. The timer factors in your location as well as data on the exact time of totality, and tells you out loud when to put on and take off your eclipse glasses.
  • Totality by Big Kid Science: Not only does this app work with your phone’s maps to direct you into the path of totality, it also shows what you’ll see at your current location. That way, you can figure out in advance whether mountains might block your view.
  • app: NASA’s app is designed to give eclipse basics without having to Google it. It provides quick and easy, ad-free searching for all eclipse questions.

The American Astronomical Society lists other apps to enhance your eclipse experience.

Even if you can’t make it to the path of totality, it’s still a good idea to get some eclipse glasses and keep your eyes on the skies. A partial solar eclipse will be visible from all of North America, weather permitting. In Seattle, for example, up to 92 percent of the sun’s disk will be covered.

GeekWire’s Alan Boyle contributed to this report.