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Total eclipse of the eye: Where and how to view the Aug. 21 solar eclipse

Solar eclipse map, including the “path of totality.” Courtesy Photo/NASA
The spectacle of a total solar eclipse has been a particular cosmic treat for millennia. According to NASA, the earliest known writings of people observing eclipses are 5,000 years old.

On Aug, 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the contiguous U.S.

The last time any part of the lower 48 states saw a total solar eclipse was almost 40 years ago, and the last time the path of a total eclipse ran coast-to-coast was nearly 100 years ago. Moreover, the eclipse will only be observable from the U.S., prompting some sky-watchers to dub it the “Great American Total Solar Eclipse.”

The eclipse will have a “path of totality,” where the total eclipse will be visible. The path covers a swath of the U.S. from Oregon down to South Carolina. Many plan to travel to towns, national parks and campgrounds located within the eclipse sweet spot. However, everyone will get to see a partial eclipse throughout the country.

For D.C. and northern Virginia, a partial eclipse will darken about 80 percent of the sun, with maximum coverage at 2:50 p.m. It will get dark outside, similar to evening twilight. Birds might fly home to roost thinking it’s nighttime, and flowers might begin to close up for the same reason.

Observers can safely view the eclipse at programs hosted by the National Air and Space museum in D.C. and in Chantilly at the Udvar-Hazy Center. In Loudoun, four branches of the Loudoun Public Library—Gum Spring, Lovettesville, Rust and Middleburg—will be having eclipse day programs.

The eclipse events at the Air and Space Museum and at Loudoun libraries will have eclipse glasses, but supplies will be limited. And everyone who plans to view the eclipse directly, even at a quick glance, will need proper eye protection. To safely view the eclipse, shades need to be thousands of times darker than the average pair of sunglasses. Certified eclipse shades can be purchased from NASA at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety

But there is more than one way to view an eclipse. The American Astronomical Society has a handy guide to indirect eclipse viewing, like “pinhole projection,” at https://eclipse.aas.org/eye-safety/projection

The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is also reminding residents seeking a location to view the eclipse to never stop along a public roadway or enter onto a property without the permission of the owner.

So stay safe and treat your eyes to a spectacular solar eclipse.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter @MsSophieDesmond.


I just got my glasses today!  So pumped for the eclipse on Monday!

On Saturday/Sunday, 600 a day are available at National Air and Space museum in Chantilly at the Udvar-Hazy Center.  Two per family. Line starts early—with the hand outs a little before 10am.

They have 10,000 for Monday—I think the it will be the same first come first serve. 

The Leesburg library has 150—and it holding them until an event on Monday.

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