Countdown to the Eclipse

partial solar eclipse nasa

Image credit: NASA

There is less than a week until the much-anticipated solar eclipse. While the path of totality will pass through 14 states, Charlottesville will experience a partial eclipse with about 86% of the sun covered. Here’s some information to help you make the most of your eclipse experience.

Eighty-six percent sounds dramatic. But that means 14 percent of the sun will still be visible. The sun is 400,000 times brighter than the full moon. So 14 percent of the sun is almost 60,000 times brighter than the full moon. In other words, the day will not get noticeably dark. The eclipse itself will take place slowly over the course of about 3 hours between 1:15 and 4:01 pm. At no time will it be safe to look directly at the sun without eye protection.

Eclipse glasses
Eclipse glasses are one way to view the eclipse, though care must be taken to use them properly. Use only glasses that you are certain came from a reputable source. High demand for glasses has encouraged widespread counterfeiting.  Parents should be aware that glasses may not be sized for young children and need to ensure that no part of the sun’s rays gets around the sides of the glasses. Children may also get impatient if they have difficulty viewing and may try to remove the glasses to see better. Careful monitoring of children is essential.

The Jefferson-Madison Regional Library does have limited numbers of safe eclipse glasses available for participants in eclipse-related programming. Most will be distributed after the speaker at the Central Eclipse Viewing Party beginning at 1:30 pm on Monday, August 21. Glasses are not being distributed outside of eclipse events. Search for the term eclipse on the JMRL web calendar to find events at a library location near you:

Pinhole viewers
Instructions for a variety of pinhole viewers and projectors are readily available. You can find ideas on the NASA eclipse website ( or on the Exploratorium’s website (

Live stream video
Both NASA and the Exploratorium will host live stream video of the eclipse.  NASA’s footage will be available at, the Exploratorium’s at

And of course, there’s an app for that! Check out the list on NASA’s website to find an app for your device to help enhance your eclipse experience:

Find out more about this eclipse and solar eclipses in general at

Just the Facts: Evaluating News Sources


In this era of information overload it can be hard to tell what is a reliable source and what may be peddling fake news. You can do your best to evaluate statements and sources using these guidelines and independent review sites.

Step one: Know the definition

Fake news is any intentionally or unintentionally published hoaxes, propaganda, and misinformation which uses social media to drive web traffic and amplify the effect. Unlike news satire, fake news seeks to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial, political, or other gain. It can also include poorly or insufficiently researched stories and personal opinions presented as fact.

Step two: Ask evaluating questions

  • Who is the source?
    Well known news sources with long histories of publishing objective stories are more reliable than personal blogs that might be the first and only publication on the subject. Also look out for clever imitations of new site URLs when accessing information. (i.e. vs
  • Why was this made?
    Look for sources that present facts instead of opinions and  which offer multiple perspectives instead of a single viewpoint.
  • Did you read more than the headline?
    Headlines are meant to grab attention, so read more of a piece before interpreting the headline as fact.
  • Who is the author?
    Make sure there is an author listed and check the author’s bio for awards and publication history. If details seem unfamiliar or suspicious, crosscheck the information elsewhere.
  • When was it published?
    Check the date to make sure that it is current and not something that happened months or even years ago.
  • Does it sound far-fetched?
    Crosscheck anything that sounds too good, or too terrible, to be true.

Step three: Learn more

Double check information at fact checking sites:

Other resources:
Take this News Literacy MOOC at Coursera
Consult this fake news sites list maintained by Snopes
Read this article full of fake news information from The Guardian

When in doubt, ask a librarian: 
You can reach library staff at JMRL by email at reference[at] or on our website through text or chat.