Eclipse parties planned for Monday

Excitement growing across region for rare astronomical event

Submitted photo courtesy of Jay M. Pasachoff A solar eclipse is dangerously bright and should only be viewed through special-purpose ‘eclipse glasses’ or hand-held solar viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.

BUCKHANNON — Hoping for clear skies, organizers of eclipse-watching parties in the area report growing excitement for Monday’s rare astronomical event.

While West Virginia is not in the forecasted path for viewing a total eclipse when the moon blocks the sun Monday afternoon, the Mountain State will have a great view of a partial eclipse if the weather cooperates, said Tracey DeLaney, assistant professor of physics at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“It was projected to be a really nice day, so we’ll see,” DeLaney said in a phone interview Thursday, noting her office has received a lot of inquiries about the so-called Great American Solar Eclipse. “We have been getting quite a few calls and requests for information, mainly about glasses.”

Since viewing the partial eclipse is dangerous without protective eyewear, many people are purchasing “eclipse glasses” or special viewers. DeLaney said a limited supply of “eclipse glasses” will be available for people attending the viewing party, scheduled for 1 to 4 p.m. Monday in the Chapel Oval of Wesleyan’s campus.

Attendees also will be able to view the partial eclipse on telescopes equipped with special filters, allowing a safe, detailed view of the solar event. Student groups from WVWC will lead the eclipse party, including the SPACE Club, Physics Club and the Sigma Pi Sigma physics honor society.

DeLaney pointed out many people can make easy, inexpensive projects themselves, such as pin-hole boxes, which provide safe ways to watch a shadow of the eclipse.

“There are quite a few cheap and easy ways to do it,” DeLaney said, encouraging anyone interested to look for examples on the internet.

The Buckhannon area is expected to be an 88 percent eclipse, starting at 1:10 p.m. The peak of the eclipse will occur at 2:37 p.m., and the eclipse will end at 3:57 p.m.

DeLaney herself plans to travel to the “path of totality” Monday to experience the total eclipse in eastern Tennessee. States along this path stretch from Oregon to South Carolina, and many areas are anticipating extremely heavy traffic.

This type of eclipse is rare — it’s the first total solar eclipse to cross part of the continental United States since Feb. 26, 1979, and it’s the first to cross the country from coast to coast since June 8, 1918, according to information from National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

After Monday’s total solar eclipse, the next solar eclipse that can be seen in the continental United States will be Oct. 14, 2023, and it will be visible from Northern California to Florida, according to NASA. Following that, a total solar eclipse will take place April 8, 2024, visible from Texas to Maine.

• In addition to a viewing party in Buckhannon, other events in the area will take place at the Elkins-Randolph County Public Library beginning at noon; at Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley Resort and many other state parks, which are offering reduced lodging rates and areas to watch the eclipse; and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, which is hosting a big bash from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with hundreds of people expected to attend for hands-on activities, lunch, exhibits and safe eclipse viewing through telescopes and projections.

At the library’s event in Elkins, Interim Director Stephanie Murphy said visitors will be able to watch NASA’s live streaming coverage of the eclipse, while enjoying snacks such as MoonPies and Starburst candies. Murphy said a limited number of “eclipse glasses” will be available for attendees.

“We have some glasses, and we’re going to go out in the parking lot together,” she said, adding it’s an exciting event and everyone is welcome.