How and where to see the solar eclipse in Ithaca — safely

A total solar eclipse will be visible across the United States on Monday afternoon, and there are gatherings in Ithaca to enjoy the 70% totality we'll get here. Don't look directly at the sun without proper eye protection!

"In Ithaca, the eclipse will begin at approximately 1:20pm and end at approximately 3:50pm, with maximum eclipse (~70%) at 2:30pm," according to the Cornell Astronomical Society, who are hosting an event at the Fuertes Observatory on Cornell's north campus.

"Solar viewing glasses and other equipment to safely view the entire event will be available," at the Cornell event, "and volunteers will be present to help explain the event and answer questions." Metered paystation parking is available in a nearby lot, and buses stop nearby.

"Sunglasses will not protect your eyes when looking directly at the sun," warns the Cornell Astronomical Society. "Never look at the sun through binoculars or a telescope without proper filters." Faculty and students from Cornell's Astronomy department "will be hosting guided viewing," they tell us.

Certified eclipse viewing glasses have been available for months, but beware of fakes and scams. Even some glasses that have been sold this summer, marked to say they're compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, turn out not to be. To test the filter, turn on your cell phone's flashlight and hold it behind the glasses. If you can see more than a hint of light from the flashlight through the glasses, they're not safe for viewing an eclipse. Real solar viewing glasses are thousands of times darker than ordinary sunglasses, and you shouldn't see much through them except for the sun.

Welding glasses or masks may not be good enough, either, unless they're rated 13 or 14, says NASA. Don't use glasses or goggles designed for torch welding; only arc welding masks are likely to have a high enough rating.

"There should be plenty of solar glasses available" at Fuertes Observatory, says the Cornell Astronomical Society.

Tompkins County Public Library is hosting a special eclipse "storytime" event at Dewitt Park, a couple of blocks north of the library, starting at 12:30pm. A few eclipse viewing glasses will be available for use there.

There will also be a few pair available at a Cosmic Eclipse Ithaca gathering at Stewart Park, also easily accessible by bus. "They might be in short supply," says organizer Cause McMan. Many stores have sold out of suitable eyewear.

That Stewart Park event, running from 11am-8pm, will feature music, yoga, arts and crafts, dancing, and food before, during, and after the eclipse. Organizers hope people will bring their own eclipse glasses to share, and they're planning to make pinhole viewers, as well, Eva VanAnken tells us.

As simple as a piece of cardboard with a pinhole through it, pinhole viewers held up will project an image of the sun on the ground, and you can see the changing disc of the sun safely that way. Standing near a leafy tree, whose leaves and branches can project many images of the sun on the ground, can offer the same effect.

Eye experts warn it can be especially dangerous to look at the sun during an eclipse because the darkening sky can widen your pupils to let more light into your eyes. The portion of the sun that remains visible is still too bright to look at without proper eye protection.

Do you know of other eclipse gatherings happening around Ithaca? Let us know in the comments!

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