Stuck in the metro? Best practices for viewing the solar eclipse in and around the Twin Cities

If you have a colander, a cheese grater — even a cracker with holes in it — you likely already have what’s needed to safely view next week’s solar eclipse.

People can use almost anything with a hole in it to see the eclipse projected onto the ground or a piece of paper, said Sally Brummel, who manages the planetarium programs at the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History. They’ll see crescents even if they look at the shadows cast by tree leaves.

“The one thing we’re trying to share is that you don’t need to go anywhere special,” Brummel said. “You don’t really need any special equipment to view it.”

When the eclipse runs its course late morning through early afternoon on Aug. 21, the sky in Minnesota won’t get dark like it will in states along the path of totality. But if the weather is clear locally, those paying attention and using the proper equipment will see an eclipse with about 80 percent coverage of the sun by the moon.

To look at it directly, specialized viewers such as solar eclipse glasses (normal sunglasses won’t work) are needed, since the sun is far too bright to view without causing eye damage.

NASA recommends that people outside the path of totality — such as in Minnesota — keep the glasses on during the entire eclipse, since there won’t be a point when the moon completely blocks the sun.

Eclipse watchers also should keep on their glasses before and after looking at the sun to ensure they don’t take them off during the eclipse, and avoid looking at the eclipse through an unfiltered camera, telescope or binoculars even with solar eclipse glasses on. The American Astronomical Society has a list of reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers on its website.

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Free NASA-certified eclipse-viewing glasses are available at Warby Parker stores, and 600 glasses will be available Wednesday at the Jerry Gamble branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities, 2410 Irving Av. N., Minneapolis, courtesy of UnitedHealthcare.

On the day of the eclipse, Hennepin County Library branches in Brooklyn Park, Eden Prairie, Edina (Southdale) and south Minneapolis (Nokomis) will have a limited supply of solar eclipse glasses available for those attending viewing events.

Glasses also can be purchased at Walmart and through online retailers. Both Lowe’s and Best Buy had sold out of the glasses in the metro area as of Thursday.

The metro area will host a range of solar eclipse-related events, including:

• A live viewing and eclipse-themed activities at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, where free eclipse glasses will be available.

• A viewing party at the Eisenhower Observatory in Hopkins, where a telescope will “project a small image of the sun,” according to the online event page, and a NASA livestream of the full eclipse will be shown.

• A “Pre-Eclipse Block Party” at the Bell Museum on Sunday with science talks about the eclipse, hands-on activities, solar telescope observing, mini-planetarium shows and a limited supply of free solar eclipse glasses. The event is free with registration. On the day of the eclipse, the museum will offer telescopes and STEM activities at the Southdale library.

• A viewing, with a limited supply of glasses, at the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis.

Locally, the eclipse will begin at 11:43 a.m., peak at 1:06 p.m. and end at 2:29 p.m. Charles McElveen, secretary with the Minnesota Astronomical Society, said the sun will be almost directly overhead during the eclipse, so lying down will be the best position to see it.

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McElveen recommended a test run a day or two before the eclipse, to make sure the spot from where you’re planning to watch isn’t blocked by buildings or other things.

The next full solar eclipse that will be visible from the Twin Cities will be either 2099 or 2106, he said. The last full solar eclipse in the Twin Cities, in 1954, was heavily covered by local news outlets and caused a lot of excitement around the metro area.

News articles detailed how residents in more than 50,000 homes woke up early to see the height of the 5 a.m. eclipse, based on data from the power company.

Another story, written by a reporter in an airplane flying over Anoka and Crystal — the heart of the “shadow belt” — told how the moon “turned the earth below into a ghost world.”

“For a fleeting instant, the sun — or what was left of it — appeared to be no more than a brilliant, fading bombshell in the east,” the story said.

 

Twitter: @jarahsarvis

 

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