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Keeping an eye on Monday's solar eclipse? Better be careful

By Dan Miller danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 8/16/17

Barbara Scull remembers when her father took her and her family to Montreal to see a total eclipse in July 1963.

This year, on Monday, the Middletown Public Library staff member again will …

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Keeping an eye on Monday's solar eclipse? Better be careful


Barbara Scull remembers when her father took her and her family to Montreal to see a total eclipse in July 1963.

This year, on Monday, the Middletown Public Library staff member again will travel to view a total eclipse. The librarian is heading to St. Joseph, Missouri, which is supposed to be one of the best places in the country to view the sun completely covered by the moon. It will be visible there for an estimated two minutes and 38 seconds.

“I still can remember it getting darker and darker and darker, and people having to turn on their headlights” in the middle of the day so they could see to drive, Scull said.

In Pennsylvania, there will be only a partial eclipse. You can try looking up at the sky at about 2:35 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21.

But if you do, experts say you better be prepared. Never directly look at the sun with the naked eye. If you plan to view the partial eclipse, you need to get your hands on a pair of eclipse glasses, experts with Kirman Eye in Hummelstown tell the Press & Journal.

The problem is, these glasses have become a hot commodity.

Hershey Public Library obtained a stash of these special glasses to give away to folks for free. They flew out the door.

“We gave away at least 1,000” pairs, and the library has no more eclipse glasses available, said Rita Smith, children’s and teen librarian at Hershey Public Library.

Getting glasses

The American Astronomical Society has a website devoted to information regarding how and from where you can get a pair of eclipse glasses: eclipse.aas.org.

The site lists vendors who may still have the glasses, including several in our area such as 7-Eleven, Love’s Travel Shops, Lowe’s, Toys R Us, and Walmart. The Press & Journal did not attempt to verify whether any or all of these vendors still have the glasses available.

The site also lists online vendors that may still have the glasses.

If all else fails and you can’t find any eclipse glasses, there are other ways to safely view the partial eclipse in an indirect fashion, such as using a pinhole device to project an image of the sun onto a nearby surface. For more on how to do this, go to the American Astronomical Society website.

As Kirman Eye points out, you can’t just use any kind of sunglasses to view the partial eclipse.

“Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. Polarized sunglasses will not protect your eyes during the eclipse. Doubling up sunglasses will not protect your eyes,” the folks with Kirman said in a news release.

The type of glasses that you need to view the partial eclipse must meet an international standard, known as ISO 12312-2. Eclipse glasses that meet ISO safety standards should be labeled with the International Organization for Standardization logo, specifically the ISO 12312-2 logo.

You should also not look at the eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or any other such device.

Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or a hand-held solar viewer. The concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eyes, causing serious injury.

Eclipse details

The full eclipse will not be visible in Pennsylvania, but will instead follow a track proceeding from Oregon southeast through Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina, according to a map posted on the American Astronomical Society website.

However, the partial eclipse will be visible in the Harrisburg area. The maximum visibility of the partial eclipse in the Harrisburg area will be at 2:40 p.m. on Aug. 21, according to a website to which the Press & Journal was referred by Kirman Eye.

You might think that because the full eclipse will not be visible here, that the risk of injuring your eye is less because it is “only” a partial eclipse.

Not so, says Sarah Labe, who works in marketing and social media for Kirman Eye.

“We are not in the direct path of the eclipse. However, we are still in the area where a partial eclipse will be visible (unless occluded by clouds, storm, etc.),” Labe said in an email. “We won’t see the eclipse reach full totality, where the moon completely covers the sun, but we will be able to see, weather permitting, stages of coverage up to full totality.”

“In Pennsylvania, 75 to 80 percent of the sun will be eclipsed. Times of partial eclipse are actually more harmful for the eyes — people will feel it is less harmful to look at the sun during this time because it will be partially covered by the moon and will not look as bright, however the harmful light emitted will be the same as on a normal, sunny day,” Labe said.

If Harrisburg was in the track of the total eclipse, you would be advised to take off your eclipse glasses at the point of totality — when the moon completely covers the entire disk of the sun. Otherwise, you wouldn’t see anything.

But since the total eclipse won’t be visible in this area, the sun will never be completely covered by the moon — so you should keep your eclipse glasses on the entire time you are viewing the partial eclipse.

We don’t know how many people are planning impromptu “eclipse” parties in this area for Aug. 21. However, Middletown Public Library will be getting into the act, says library Director John Grayshaw.

The library has information available about the eclipse which you can pick up during library hours between now and the eclipse.

Full house in Hershey

At Hershey Public Library, more than 70 people have signed up to participate in an event that the library will be holding during the partial eclipse.

Registration is full, so if you are not registered, the library asks that you not show up for the event, Smith said.

Around 2:30 p.m. people at the library for the event will start going outside in preparation for the peak viewing at 2:40 p.m.

The library held back enough of the eclipse glasses to make sure that people who registered for the event have a pair.

The actual number of people at the event could end up being well more than 100, as a number of those who registered represent a family, Smith said.

Besides looking at the eclipse, the library will also have people looking at the ground to see some of the interesting shadow effects that could take place during the phenomena, Smith said.

Remembering 1963

Back 54 years ago, speciality glasses were even harder to come by, Scull said, but her father had some. This time, Scull ordered a pair through amazon.com in May.

She ordered a second pair of eclipse glasses from Amazon about a month ago, but says she received a letter from Amazon saying that Amazon could not guarantee that the glasses were legitimate and met the proper international standard — even though the glasses were labeled as such. So Scull to be safe will use the first glasses that she got back in May that she knows are legit.

Scull said she isn’t just going out to Missouri for the eclipse. She’ll be meeting up with friends from Des Moines, Iowa, and also trying to track down some long-lost relatives. Her grandmother was born in St. Joseph.

That way, in case it’s overcast and cloudy — although weather forecasts are optimistic — “our trip won’t be a bust,” Scull said.