Solar eclipses can only happen during a new moon when the moon moves between the Earth and the sun. The moon blocks out the light from the sun. Now one may think that happens every month.A new moon does happen monthly but we don't have a total solar eclipse monthly because of the moons orbit around us is tilted. See http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/why2.html for a detailed explanation including diagrams. A solar eclipse only blacks out a small spot upon the Earth's surface because the moon is much smaller in comparison than Earth and we are looking at it's shadow. This doesn't allow for a large viewing area as is available with lunar eclipses.
November third's eclipse could be viewed over North America and I was awake to see it although I was only able to view the partial due to the sun coming over the horizon. When viewing a solar eclipse you should never look directly into it as it could damage the retina of your eyes. I had made a viewing box which I inadvertently left at home in my rush to the out the door. Next we had to decide where to view it and chose a friend's house along the St.John's river in Florida.
We walked along his dock I had my phone in hand with the camera going and was able to see the eclipse when I played back the video. The eclipse can't be seen directly when watching the sun but rather a red bubble within the picture that contains a reflection of the sun, again way cool science phenomena. The image is inverted my guess is because the focal point inducing what is known as a real image. In my pajamas and slippers I stood watching one of astronomy's most amazing events and have the footage to prove it.
The picture is the inverted eclipse. Below that is my you tube video.