Not ready for the upcoming solar eclipse? There’s a class for that

What you need to know about August's solar eclipse

The U.S. is in for a rare astronomical treat on August 21, 2017 — that's the day of the "Great American Eclipse." It's the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire U.S. in 99 years, and more than 12 million Americans live in its path.
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The U.S. is in for a rare astronomical treat on August 21, 2017 — that's the day of the "Great American Eclipse." It's the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire U.S. in 99 years, and more than 12 million Americans live in its path.

It might have been the free sunglasses.

Sure, the class Matt Flood was teaching about the upcoming total solar eclipse was full of useful information.

But for most of the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and adults gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School this was the first time they could stare at the sun without even a squint.

Flood, vice president of the Tacoma Astronomical Society, set up a solar telescope and passed out the extra dark sunglasses — specially designed to look at the sun — as part of a short class he and others are teaching in preparation for Aug. 21 eclipse.

“I can’t wait for the eclipse, because I’ve never seen one before,” said Anna Rosati, 8.

Anna; her sister, Clara, 10; and friend Charlotte Savage, 10, kept walking with their glasses toward the sun as if they could touch it.

“I’m excited,” Flood said. “They’ll get it after they see this (class).”

He used a hula hoop with a ball (representing the moon) attached to demonstrate how an eclipse happens and why they are so rare. His head became the Earth.

It’s one of dozens of classes members of the astronomical society have given and will give in the coming weeks. Two are scheduled for Wednesday (July 12) and Thursday (July 13).

Safety is a big concern, Flood said. The glasses he passed out are so dark that only the sun’s disc can be seen with them as everything else turns black.

If you look at the sun, even a sliver, without protection you can damage your eyes,” he cautioned. “You won’t feel a thing.”

girls crop
Anna, 8, and her sister Clara, 10, Rosati (from left) along with friend Charlotte Savage,10, look at the sun using special glasses that are designed to safely view it at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Tacoma. The girls got the glasses at a class that taught them about the Aug. 21, 2017 eclipse. Craig Sailor csailor@thenewstribune.com

The kids at St. Charles were practicing good viewing habits. Flood urges all eclipse watches to become well accustomed to their view devices before the big day.

“My favorite part was looking at the sun with our special sunglasses,” Clara said later.

About 93 percent of the sun will be obscured at the peak of the eclipse in Tacoma, according to NASA. It will begin at 9:08 a.m., peak at 10:20 a.m. and return to normal at 11:38 a.m.

“It’ll turn dark,” Flood said. “They might be able to see some of the corona.” Stars might be visible as well.

Eclipse watchers say the most amazing aspect will be the corona — the dazzling glowing halo around the sun that’s always there but can be seen only during a solar eclipse.

As the moon moves in front of the sun it will cast a 70-mile-wide shadow, beginning in Oregon and moving across the United States — the region of totality.

The period of totality will be quick — between 1  1/2 and 2 1/2 minutes, depending on where you see it.

Clara and Anna’s parents will be headed to the Oregon Coast.

“I know a lot of people going to the coast,” Flood said. “I just tell them, you’re lowering your chances,” because bad weather could affect the viewing.

Matt Flood of the Tacoma Astronomical Society uses a hula hoop to demonstrate how the moon’s orbit interacts with the sun to create a solar eclipse. He was teaching a class on the Aug. 21 eclipse to boy and girl scouts at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Tacoma. Craig Sailor csailor@thenewstribune.com

Flood and his group will be headed to Antelope, Oregon.

“I’m getting more and more wound up on it,” he said. “This will be the first one for me too.”

He expects roads leading into the region of totality to be crowded.

“Don’t think you’re going to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and think you’re going to Oregon,” he said.

What happens if you stay in Washington and you feel as if you’ve missed the event of a lifetime?

All is not lost.

Another total eclipse will hit North America on April 8, 2024. You’ll just have to travel a little farther.

The shadow will move from Mexico and into the United States crossing from Texas to Maine.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

2017 Solar Eclipse

When: 10:20 a.m., Aug. 21

Information: eclipse2017.nasa.gov/

Tacoma Community College eclipse classes

When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (July 12), Tacoma Community College’s Tacoma campus.

When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday (July 13), TCC’s Gig Harbor campus

Fee: $8

Information and register: continuingedtacoma.com/ce-class-search/special-interest/

Astronomy fair

When: Noon-5 p.m., 9-11 p.m. Aug. 5

Where: Pierce College Fort Steilacoom

Information: http://www.tas-online.org/