How to Watch the Solar Eclipse

Aug 15, 2017

Shanil Virani is the director of the John C. Wells Planetarium at James Madison University and host of WMRA’s Our Island Universe.
Credit Courtesy Shanil Virani

Don’t worry! If you’ve not made plans to travel to see the solar eclipse on Monday [August 21] from the path of totality, you can still enjoy it from right here in the Valley. WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports.

SHANIL VIRANI: We’re going to have a great show.

But first, a warning about watching the eclipse:

VIRANI: You should not look at the sun EVER without solar-eclipse approved glasses.

That’s Shanil Virani, director of the John C. Wells Planetarium at James Madison University and host of WMRA’s Our Island Universe. He’s published an eclipse primer on the planetarium’s website.

VIRANI: Here in the Valley the moon will block out about 86% of the solar disk. The temperature will drop, it'll get dark, stars may appear, you will certainly see Jupiter and Venus appear in your daytime sky, nocturnal animals will be confused because it will appear dark to them, so you may hear crickets chirping.

The eclipse on Monday will take place here from 1:13 until 4:01, with the most dramatic coverage around 2:40 and lasting for just over two-and-a-half minutes.

The Central Branch of the Massanutten Regional Library is giving away a “very limited” supply of viewing glasses on Friday and Saturday afternoons — one per person — but Virani says there’s a great alternative:

VIRANI: One of neatest, coolest things to do is actually NOT to buy solar eclipse glasses, is to save the two bucks, and to make your own pinhole projection. They're safe, it’s easy, it’s fun, and when you do the activity not only do you see a nice solar disk that you can watch the eclipse, you might even see large sunspot groups if there are any sunspots, all for the price of whatever a half gallon milk carton costs.

Here are links to these instructions, a list of approved makers and online vendors of viewing glasses, and much more.