Hampton Roads residents who want to catch a glimpse of the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in 99 years now have a chance to see it at local libraries on August 21.
Total solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, completely covering the sun and blocking out its light.
On August 21, the path of totality, or total darkness, will start near Lincoln City, Oregon and continue to Charleston, South Carolina, traveling 60 to 70 miles.
The eclipse will last up to two minutes and 40 seconds in some areas and people living in Canada, Central America and the upper part of South America will see a partial eclipse.
What makes this one so special — at least for Americans — is that it will cut diagonally across the entire United States.
Because onlookers in Virginia will only get a partial view of the eclipse, those who wish to see it will need protective glasses with lenses that can filter out light and prevent damage to their eyes.
According to a press release, the Space Science Institute (SSI) received a $490,000 grant in November 2016 that allowed them to provide 1.26 million solar viewing glasses and other resources to public libraries in the U.S., including some in Hampton Roads.
The grant was funded by NASA, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Google, the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and other organizations.
These glasses will be distributed for free within the community, including libraries in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Suffolk.
The libraries will also host solar eclipse viewing parties.
According to Virginia Beach Public Libraries, onlookers in Hampton Roads will get a partial view of the eclipse that will start at 1:21 p.m., peak at 2:47 p.m. and end at 4:06 p.m.
Virginia Beach residents can pick up a pair of glasses on August 21 at the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library, where they can also read stories, make crafts and watch the eclipse outside from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Those who don’t make it in time to get glasses can watch NASA’s broadcast of the eclipse in the library’s central auditorium, or take a peek at the eclipse through a solar filter on a telescope with the Back Bay Amateur Astronomers.
Virginia Beach skygazers can also hang out at the Princess Anne Area Library from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on August 21. Visitors can pick up their own pair of glasses, make a pinhole camera and some solar eclipse art, then watch the eclipse outside.
Bonnie Shaw, library assistant at the Slover Library, said that all Norfolk branches will receive a limited supply of glasses on August 21 and will hand them out to anticipating viewers while supplies last.
Viewers can watch the eclipse at the Slover branch from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
All Chesapeake Public Libraries will have glasses as well starting on August 1. Those who wish to get a pair can pick them up while supplies last.
Holly Finch, the youth and family services librarian at the Indian River Library, said they will also host educational events, including STEM activities on July 6 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. for children in grades 3-5.
“These activities are designed to get children enthusiastic about the upcoming eclipse as well as teach what it is and give safe viewing tips,” said Finch.
The Indian River library will host a free eclipse viewing party on August 21 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., where children can complete learning activities and get their own glasses to safely view it.
Over in Suffolk, solar glasses will be up for grabs at the Chuckatuck Library’s Solar Eclipse party on August 21. Festivities will last from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. complete with games, activities and science experiments leading up to the eclipse.
Those who miss this one will have to wait until 2024 to see the next total solar eclipse, which will cross Texas, travel up through the Midwest, over New York and out over Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.
For information on how to get your own solar-safe glasses or for resources to make your own, contact your local library or visit starnetlibraries.org.
This story was written during my summer internship at WAVY TV 10, where I was the digital intern. I wrote stories for Wavy.com and hrScene.com, wrote blogs documenting all of the fun things I learned at the station, and helped other interns document their journeys as well.