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

Books for the Upcoming Eclipse

eclipseFor the first time since 1979, many Americans will soon be able to experience a total solar eclipse. Lasting no more than a few minutes on August 21, this spectacular phenomenon will be viewable roughly between 2:30 and 3 p.m. here in Virginia. Read more about the history and science behind solar eclipses by checking out one of these books from the library:

Eclipse: Journeys to the Dark Side of the Moon by Frank Close – Looks at the science of eclipses, reveals their role in culture, and focuses on people who travel around the world chasing these events.

American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron – Documents the efforts of three scientists to observe the rare total solar eclipse of 1878, citing how the ambitions of James Craig Watson, Maria Mitchell, and Thomas Edison helped America’s early pursuits as a scientific superpower.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson – Offers witty, digestible explanations of topics in cosmology, from the Big Bang and black holes to quantum mechanics and the search for life in the universe.

In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses by Anthony Aveni – In anticipation of solar eclipses visible in 2017 and 2024, an exploration of the scientific and cultural significance of this mesmerizing cosmic display. Continue reading