There goes the sun

What you need to know ahead of next Monday's eclipse

Don’t be alarmed, the darkness that will consume Seattle next Monday morning is entirely natural.

For the first time in nearly 40 years, a total solar eclipse will cross the U.S. on Aug. 21. While the Puget Sound won’t be in the range of totality — you’d have to go down to Oregon for that — approximately 92 to 94 percent of the sun will be blocked during the eclipse’s peak in the Seattle area. Long story short, it’s going to get pretty dark for a few minutes.

Since this kind of thing doesn’t happen very often, we’ve put together a guide for next week’s eclipse to help you plan for what promises to be a unique morning in the Northwest.

What exactly is a solar eclipse?

It’s a rare instance in which the moon casts a shadow on Earth by moving between the two. The “path of totality” is the area that is in the center of the moon’s shadow when it hits the earth, completely blocking the sun.

What time/how long is it?

The eclipse begins in Seattle shortly after 9 a.m., as the moon begins its move past the sun. At approximately 10:20 a.m., the eclipse will reach its peak in Seattle, covering most — but not all — of the sun. The sun will be fully visible again by just after 11:30 a.m. So, start to finish, it will take about two-and-a-half hours.

What about the weather?

This is where it gets a bit tricky. Simply put, cloudy skies would, obviously, make it difficult to see the spectacle. Hope for a clear morning! If not, find a place with a live stream of the action.

Where can I watch from?

Technically, anywhere where you can have a clear view of the sun to the Southeast. But, you may be looking for something a bit more interactive.

The Pacific Science Center (200 Second Ave. N.) will open at 8:30 a.m., giving visitors the chance to watch the eclipse through safe viewing glasses, talk with the education staff about the celestial event, and see hands-on demonstrations about how eclipses occur.

The Museum of Flight (9404 E. Marginal Way S.) will host a free event with museum educators and NASA scientists outside the main entrance, with no reservation required. They’ll also show the NASA Live Eclipse Megacast in the Allen Theater from 9:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., free with admission to the museum. The first 1,000 visitors that day will also receive free eclipse viewing glasses, courtesy of NASA. Later in the morning, NASA’s Gulfstream III Science Aircraft, which will be flying over Oregon during totality, will land at the museum.

Meanwhile, 14 branches of the Seattle Public Library will show a live-stream of NASA’s Megacast (the closest being the Ballard Branch), and four locations will have outdoor viewing parties from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (the High Point and Northgate branches, the South Park Community Center, and the Bryant Neighborhood Playground).  

Wait, you mentioned glasses.

Yes, to safely view the eclipse outside of the path of totality at any point, you cannot look directly at it (this should really go without saying). If you’re not going somewhere that will have viewing glasses to distribute, you can consult the American Astronomical Society’s list of reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers ( to find glasses that are compliant with international safety standards.

What if I can’t get glasses?

Well, another option is to build your own pinhole projector of the sun. All you need is a sheet of cardboard or heavy paper (or even a paper plate!), a sheet of white paper, and a pin, thumbtack, or paper clip. For directions on how to make one, go to

But what happens if I look directly at it?

Bad things. Didn’t your parents tell you it’s not polite to stare? That’s especially true with the sun, which can respond by damaging your retina.

This goes for viewing the eclipse through a camera, telescope, binoculars, or anything else.

What if I miss this eclipse?

You’ll be waiting quite some time for the next one. This is the first time since 1979 since the path of totality runs through the United States, and it won’t happen again until April 8, 2024. That eclipse will have a path of totality that enters the United States in Texas and heads eastward toward Maine.

I have more questions.

Of course you do, but NASA should be able to help. Go to for more information on the eclipse.

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