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Eclipse glasses
GeekWire’s Cara Kuhlman, Clare McGrane and Chelsey Ballarte give their eclipse glasses a test drive. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

All of the continental United States and Canada will witness a solar eclipse on Aug. 21, but you’ll need eye protection to see the partial phase safely. This may be the event that turns solar-filter glasses into a mass-market fashion statement.

If you think regular sunglasses, compact discs or exposed photographic film will do the trick, think again. (Besides, who has film lying around anymore?) As long as even a sliver of the sun’s disk is uncovered, virtually the only safe way to see the spectacle directly is through special spectacles.

Fortunately, there should be plenty of solar-viewing glasses to go around. The Robert D. and Jessie L. Stinnett Trust is facilitating distribution of glasses from American Paper Optics through the website: You can order four pairs of glasses online for $5, but the offer ends on Aug. 1.

Astronomers Without Borders and other nonprofit groups are shipping glasses as well. Plenty of other online outlets sell the glasses (as well as solar filters for cameras, binoculars and telescopes), but whatever you do, make sure your shipment arrives before Aug. 21.

Libraries across the country, including Seattle Public Library, are distributing free eclipse glasses to all comers. Seattle’s program begins on Aug. 1, and there are a couple of caveats: The glasses have to be picked up at library locations in person (no phone or email orders), and it’s one pair to a family while supplies last.

Fourteen Seattle libraries will be showing NASA’s live video stream of eclipse coverage beginning at 10 a.m. PT Aug. 21. (You can find the list here.)

In Seattle, the partial eclipse reaches its peak at 10:20 a.m. when more than 90 percent of the sun’s disk will be covered.

NASA’s video coverage will focus on views from the 70-mile-wide path where a total eclipse is visible. The moon’s darkest shadow will sweep eastward across the mainland U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. Watching the live stream, at the library or online, should serve as the next best thing to being in the zone of totality.

Seattle’s libraries are planning lots of events leading up to the big day. Here are the listings:

Get Ready for the Eclipse!

Pacific Science Center educator Dennis Schatz talks about the eclipse and how to see it safely. His children’s book about eclipses, “When the Sun Goes Dark,” will be available for purchase and signing. For all ages.

Solar Eclipse Lecture

Bryan Brewer, author of “Eclipse: History. Science. Awe,” will give a talk about the history, science and observation of eclipses. (Brewer gave GeekWire an in-depth eclipse preview last month.)

Who Stole the Sun?

What’s an eclipse? ​How do eclipses happen? What can I use to safely watch the eclipse on Aug. 21? Find out answers to these questions and more. For all ages.

Where Did the Sun Go?

Librarians explain when the eclipse will occur, how to view it safely and to participate in fun eclipse activities. For ages 5 and up.

Tinkerlab: Solar Eclipse

Learn about the eclipse, then make and take home a pinhole projection viewer to safely view the eclipse. There will also be fun experiments with the sun’s ultraviolet rays. For ages 12 and under.

Eclipse Story Time

Children will enjoy stories and activities about the upcoming total solar eclipse. For ages 12 and under.

Outdoor Eclipse Viewing Parties

Watch the partial solar eclipse with friends and neighbors. For all ages.

Keep an eye out for more reports about the total solar eclipse from GeekWire, and check GeekWire’s Facebook page for eclipse glasses giveaways in the days ahead. Thanks to American Paper Optics for donating the glasses.

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