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 2017solar.com 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.
- 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. July 29 at the Beacon Hill Branch, 2821 Beacon Ave. S., 206-684-4711
- 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. July 30 at the Greenwood Branch, 8016 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-684-4086
- 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Central Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Level 1, Microsoft Auditorium, 206-386-4675
- 11 a.m. to noon Aug. 12 at the NewHolly Branch, 7058 32nd Ave. S., 206-386-1905
- 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 12 at the West Seattle Branch, 2306 42nd Ave. S.W., 206-684-7444
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.)
- 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. July 31 at the Southwest Branch, 9010 35th Ave. S.W., 206-684-7455
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.
- 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Northeast Branch, 6801 35th Ave. N.E., 206-684-7539
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.
- 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Capitol Hill Branch, 425 Harvard Ave. E., 206-684-4715
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.
- 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at the Delridge Branch, 5423 Delridge Way S.W., 206-733-9125
- 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 16 at the South Park Branch, 8604 Eighth Ave. S., 206-615-1688
Eclipse Story Time
Children will enjoy stories and activities about the upcoming total solar eclipse. For ages 12 and under.
- 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 14 at the High Point Branch, 3411 S.W. Raymond St., 206-684-7454
Outdoor Eclipse Viewing Parties
Watch the partial solar eclipse with friends and neighbors. For all ages.
- 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 21 at the Bryant Neighborhood Playground, 40th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 65th Street
- 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 21 at the High Point Branch, 3411 S.W. Raymond St., 206-684-7454
- 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 21 at the South Park Community Center, 8319 Eighth Ave. S.
- 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 21 at the Northgate Branch, 10548 Fifth Ave. N.E., 206-386-1980
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.