It’s a rare astronomical wonder: on Monday, August 21 a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast in the United States for the first time in 99 years, inspiring the nickname: The National Eclipse. While Richmond isn’t directly in the path of totality, where the sun’s light will be totally blocked by the moon passing between the Earth and Sun, we will be able to see 86% of totality, with the moon covering a significant portion of the sun. It will be spectacular!
, the eclipse will begin at 1:18 pm and last through 4:03 pm, with maximum occlusion of the sun at 2:44 pm. It’s the first time a total solar eclipse has been visible from anywhere in the mainland U.S. since 1979. And if you miss it, your next chance won’t be until April 8, 2024.
The most important thing to remember about the eclipse is that looking at the partially eclipsed sun is extremely dangerous and can cause permanent vision damage.
Just like focusing the sun’s rays through a lens can start a fire or burn an ant, viewing a solar eclipse without wearing specially approved glasses can burn your retina, causing permanent vision damage. So, don’t do it!
From our viewpoint in Richmond and all of Virginia, the sun will never be covered in totality by the moon, so knowing how to view it is extremely important.
Unsafe ways to view the eclipse include: Sunglasses, smoked glass, unfiltered telescopes or magnifiers, and polarizing filters.
To protect your eyesight, use only specially approved eclipse glasses (here’s where to find them) or make a simple pinhole camera to view it safely. Be sure to discuss with your kids how they can safely view the eclipse; never let them look up at the partially eclipsed sun without specially approved eye protection.
You can easily go outside your home and see this astronomical wonder, but if you’re interested in attending one of the many local viewing parties, a good place to start is your local library.
Richmond and surrounding county public libraries will host “Viewing Parties” with specially approved eclipse glasses available to view the eclipse safely:
Richmond’s Main Library will host a solar eclipse viewing party from 2-3:00 p.m. with special viewing glasses available and refreshments. For more details, call 804-646-4768.
Henrico County public library branches―including Glen Allen, Libbie Mill, North Park, Twin Hickory and Varina―will host solar eclipse viewing parties from 2-3:00p.m. Solar viewing glasses will be available while supplies last, and they will also explain and demonstrate how you can safely view the eclipse without special glasses through a simple pinhole camera. Phone numbers for the various branches can be found here.
The Science Museum of Virginia will host an eclipse viewing party from 12 -4:00 p.m. with free eclipse-viewing glasses included with your paid admission to the museum ($13.50-$14.50).
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will host an eclipse viewing party from 1-3:00 p.m. included with your paid admission into the garden ($8-$13). The first 500 guests will receive free solar eclipse viewing glasses.
If you can’t go outside or if it’s too cloudy to see this astronomical wonder, you can view the eclipse on your phone or computer at NASA’s live streaming site.
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