How to watch the eclipse (if you aren't headed to Oregon)

By Graph Massara via SF Gate

On Aug. 21, many lucky Americans will witness a total solar eclipse. In California, we'll get to see just a partial eclipse. But not to worry, Bay Area eclipsophiles — there are plenty of ways to see the total eclipse from home. It is, after all, the first total solar eclipse to cut across the continental U.S. in nearly a century.

The Exploratorium will be livestreaming the eclipse from two points on the so-called “path of totality,” a 70-mile-wide stretch of land that diagonally bisects the country and forms an arc from Oregon to South Carolina. Video feeds from the Exploratorium’s telescopes in Madras, Ore., and Casper, Wyo. will be available on a shiny new smartphone app, which the museum developed for the occasion.

In addition to the eclipse itself, the Exploratorium will be broadcasting a “sonification” of the eclipse, as played live by the Kronos Quartet. Museum visitors will be treated to a piece of music arranged by data from the light of the sun (and by Bay Area composer Wayne Grim).

The sun over our beloved bay will never darken more than 76 percent of the way, according to Google’s eclipse simulator. Unless you’re planning on trekking out to the Midwest, where most of the path lies — or you’re willing to shell out $1,000 or more for an Airbnb in Oregon — you’ll have to settle for experiencing a partial eclipse. (That’s still enough to worry California energy regulators, who have been urging people to turn off their lights during the three-hour span of darkness.)

If you want to watch the celestial happenings yourself, you’ll need a pair of eclipse-viewing goggles. They’re about as fashionable as the 3D glasses you might get at a movie theater, but looking at a partial eclipse without them can seriously harm your eyes.

The Exploratorium will have glasses available as part of the museum’s eclipse-themed programming. Libraries around the Bay Area will also be distributing thousands of pairs to the masses, compliments of the nonprofit Space Science Institute’s StarNet initiative. Notable locations include the Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco (Ortega branch) public libraries, though the glasses are first-come-first-serve, and library officials warn that the promotion looks to be a popular one.

If you want a better shot at getting a pair – or you just can’t get enough eclipse hype – the libraries are also planning an assortment of pre-eclipse events. The Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco libraries will all be hosting non-technical science talks with astronomer Andrew Fraknoi. The Oakland library will also hold a viewing party, and in San Francisco, little scientists and their parents can snag a pair at the Ortega branch’s special storytime event.

If all else fails, eclipse glasses have become ubiquitous on Amazon. You can even get them in a flashy patriotic print.

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