WASHINGTON — “Eclipse Mania” is officially here, and for good reason — the last total eclipse to span the United States was in 1918.
When to look
The eclipse began at 1:17 p.m. Monday for the D.C. area, according to NASA, and ends at 4:01 p.m.
It was at its maximum at 2:42 p.m. for residents in the region.
Check out NASA’s interactive map for more specifics.
How dark will it get?
How much the eclipse darkens the sky depends on the level of totality for your area. For D.C., that’s around 80 percent, which will make it seem like evening or twilight.
The solar eclipse here will be a partial phase eclipse. You have to go to one of the 14 states where the 70-mile wide path of the moon’s shadow occurs to experience totality — the complete covering of the sun by the moon. There are 200 million people who live within one day’s drive of the path of totality so traffic is expected to be heavy in some areas. And, while it won’t get pitch-black in D.C., the feds are warning about driving during the eclipse.
“Most people don’t think of the Federal Highway Administration when they think of eclipses,” said federal spokesman Doug Hecox. “This is a driver-distraction issue.”
When the eclipse is in progress on Monday, Aug. 21, Hecox said, drivers should not pull over alongside the road and shouldn’t wear eclipse glasses while driving. Instead, plan ahead and stop somewhere to take it all in.
“Enjoy the show from a place of safety,” Hecox advised.
Protect your eyes
No matter where you live, the most important consideration to enjoying this event is safety. To view the eclipse safely you have to read and heed the advice provided by NASA.
Failure to do so can result in permanent eye damage. Parents must ensure their children are safely observing the eclipse. Approved eclipse glasses can be purchased through online and local vendors. Buy only from these vendors as there have been reports of unsafe eclipse glasses being sold.
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How to build your own pinhole camera
Are you having trouble finding last-minute solar eclipse glasses? WTOP can help.
You will need: Two pieces of white card stock, aluminum foil, tape and a pin or paper clip
Cut a square hole in the middle of one of the pieces of card stock and tape a piece of aluminum foil over the hole.
Using the pin or paper clip, poke a small hole in the middle of the foil.
Put your second piece of card stock on the ground — with your back facing the sun — and hold the your first piece of card stock up with the foil facing towards you.
You will see the projection of the eclipse on the card stock on the ground. The farther away you hold your pinhole camera, the larger your projection will be.
If you plan on watching the eclipse through a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device, the American Astronomical Society says to buy a solar filter to place on the end of the lens. Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through any of these without a solar filter.
Similarly, do not look at the sun through any of these while wearing eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer. The concentrated rays could damage the filter and cause serious injury to your eyes, according to the American Astronomical Society.
If you are within the path of totality, remove the solar filter from your optical device only when the moon completely covers the sun’s face. Replace the filter as soon as the sun begins to reappear to watch the remaining partial phases of the eclipse.
Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to look directly at the sun through an optical device.
The American Astronomical Society advises to always inspect your solar filter before use. If the filter is scratched, punctured, torn or otherwise damaged, discard it. Be sure to read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
As long as filters aren’t damaged in any way, the American Astronomical Society says you may reuse them indefinitely.
The American Astronomical Society recommends seeking expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device.
A number of manufacturers have certified that their solar filters for cameras, telescopes and binoculars meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products, according to the American Astronomical Society. For more information on reputable vendors, click here.
Remember to always supervise children using solar filters.
More options for watching
If you can’t witness the total solar eclipse in person, you can still see it online or via TV.
- NASA will offer hours of coverage online and on NASA Television beginning at noon. It plans live streaming (more below) of the eclipse beginning at 1 p.m. with images from satellites, research aircraft, high-altitude balloons and specially modified telescopes.
- CNN coverage will include reporting from Oregon, Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina. In partnership with Volvo, CNN also plans two hours of livestreaming, 360-degree coverage accessible in virtual reality through Oculus headsets beginning at 1 p.m.
- The PBS science series NOVA is planning a quick turnaround with an hourlong eclipse documentary at 9 p.m.
- The PBS science series NOVA is planning a quick turnaround with an hourlong eclipse documentary at 9 p.m.
- The Science Channel will broadcast its live coverage from Madras, Oregon, from noon to 4 p.m., with commentary from educators and astronomers from the Lowell Observatory.
- David Muir will anchor ABC ‘s two hours of live coverage, with correspondents reporting from viewing parties across the country. NBC also plans live coverage, with Lester Holt hosting special reports at 1 and 2 p.m. featuring correspondents reporting from Oregon, Illinois, Wyoming and South Carolina. Shepard Smith will break into typical broadcasting on Fox News Channel from noon to 4 p.m. to update viewers on the eclipse.
- The Weather Channel is kicking off its live coverage at 6 a.m. and continuing throughout the day with dispatches from seven locations.
NASA live stream
If it is cloudy or you cannot get outside to safely see the eclipse, NASA Television will carry it live from coast-to-coast from unique vantage points on the ground and from aircraft and spacecraft, including the International Space Station. Coverage will be featured during the live, four-hour broadcast “Eclipse Across America: Through the Eyes of NASA.”
“Programming begins at 12 noon EDT with a preview show hosted from Charleston, South Carolina. The main show begins at 1 p.m. and will cover the path of totality the eclipse will take across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. The program will feature views from NASA research aircraft, high-altitude balloons, satellites and specially-modified telescopes. It also will include live reports from Charleston, as well as from Salem, Oregon; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Beatrice, Nebraska; Jefferson City, Missouri; Carbondale, Illinois; Hopkinsville, Kentucky; and Clarksville, Tennessee,” NASA said.
Watch the live stream here:
If you are traveling or live out of the D.C. area, NASA has created a nationwide events page.
Within the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area, there are a lot of solar eclipse events taking place. This is not an all inclusive list due to the sheer number of events. Call your local library and recreation center to find out whether an eclipse event is being held.
- Shenandoah: The Second Annual Night Sky Festival is family friendly with astronomy stuff for all ages. The Night Sky Festival will occur over four days and nights, including the day of the eclipse — rain or shine. Most of the events are free. Rooms can be booked and there are places to eat.
- National Air and Space Museum: View the eclipse using the musuem’s solar telescopes and safe eclipse glasses. The museum will hand out free ones. The museum will have a live feed from a museum in Missouri where there will be a total eclipse.
- National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly: Free eclipse glasses and safe solar telescopes will be available.
- National Zoo: Another place to find a safe solar telescope and free glasses for viewing.
- National Archives: You’ll find safe solar telescopes here, too.
- Alexandria: Dental Excellence is holding a viewing party on its rooftop, and handing out protective glasses.
- Anne Arundel County: The Public Library is hosting viewing events at six locations.
- Calvert County: All Calvert Library locations will hold eclipse watching events with protective glasses available on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Charles County: Safely watch the solar eclipse in the parking lot of the James E. Richmond Science Center in Waldorf.
- City of Fairfax: There will be a viewing party at Old Town Hall and Old Town Square, with free viewing glasses while they last.
- Fairfax County: Pohick Regional Library and Patrick Henry Library are among the numerous places hosting eclipse events countywide.
- Frederick County, Md.: Join the Solar Eclipse Party at the Urbana Regional Library, with safe viewing glasses available while they last.
- Gaithersburg: There’s a Solar Eclipse Party at Observatory Park with free solar viewers while supplies.
- Howard County: Several viewing parties are planned at county libraries, where safety glasses and refreshments will be provided while they last.
- Loudoun County: One of the county’s library viewing parties includes NASA Solar System Ambassador Mary Beth Stoddard.
- University of Maryland: The Department of Astronomy plans a safe eclipse viewing session.
- Montgomery College: The Takoma Park Campus hosts an eclipse event that includes a planetarium show.
- Montgomery County: Total Eclipse in the Park is a watch party in Silver Spring.
- Prince William County: The Public Library has numerous eclipse-related events.
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WTOP contributor Greg Redfern, WTOP’s William Vitka, Rachel Pickarski, Michelle Basch, The Associated Press and ABC News contributed to this report.
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