Eclipse parties popping up in South Mississippi

It’s the first total solar eclipse to cross the United States from coast-to-coast since 1918, and people from South Mississippi are traveling north to see the total eclipse or making plans to witness the sun’s 80 percent eclipse on the Coast.

The peak of the eclipse in South Mississippi will happen on Monday, Aug. 21, at 1:30 p.m., when the moon passes in front of the earth and sun, casting a shadow on much of the Earth.

The total eclipse starts near Lincoln City, Oregon, at 10:15 a.m. (12:15 p.m. Central time) and ends at 2:48 p.m. (1:48 Central Time) near Charleston, South Carolina, according to NASA, taking just over an hour and a half to cross the country. The partial eclipse will last about 2-3 hours and the total eclipse just over two minutes.

“During a total eclipse, we have the rare opportunity to look directly at the sun’s vast, striking outer atmosphere, the corona,” according to NASA. “The corona appears as pearly white rays and streamers, radiating around the lunar disk.”

The eclipse is the hottest topic on social media and the “safety glasses” that let people look at the eclipse without hurting their eyes are selling fast.

“There has been such a demand that we are sold out,” said Diane Ripley, director of education at Infinity Science Center in Hancock County, where a Solar Eclipse Day on Aug. 21 will make the most of the eclipse.

All the interest in the eclipse has taken the Infinity staff “totally by surprise,” she said and asks, “Why sit in your backyard when you can come see it with a group?”

Activity tables and presentations from 9 a.m. to about noon will be complete before the eclipse. “Admission includes your solar glasses,” she said, and is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors age 55 and older, $12 for military and $8 for children ages 4-13. Ripley said schools and other groups are encouraged to attend.

A couple of teachers in Jackson County said they already have purchased the protective eyewear for their students, but with classes just resuming this week, many of the local schools haven’t yet determined their plans.

Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport announced plans for a Solar Eclipse Watch Party on social media. “We’ve had a lot of people say they’re planning on coming,” said Sonja Gillis, marketing and public relations director.

The party will run from 12:30-2:30 p.m. and the activities are included with museum admission, which is $10 for ages 1 and older, $8 for military and seniors age 62 and older and free for museum members. They’ll be giving away the solar glasses, she said, and hosting a workshop on Aug. 19, making pinhole viewers and doing other activities to get the kids ready for the eclipse.

As a preview to the eclipse, the Perseid Meteor Shower occurs every Aug. 12. The best time to see it should be in the early morning hours before dawn.

Eyes are on the tropics to see whether either the eclipse or the meteors will be visible in South Mississippi. NOAA and the Cooperative Institutes for Climate and Satellites–North Carolina reviewed past cloud conditions for August 21 and found that cloudier conditions could be possible on the coasts and as the eclipse travels east of the Mississippi River. The interactive eclipse map shows the eclipse time is at 1:31 p.m. in Gulfport, which has a 79 percent chance the view will be affected by clouds, and 1:32 in Pascagoula, which has an 80 percent chance of clouds partially obstructing the view .

How to safely view the eclipse

▪  Always supervise children using solar filters.

▪  NASA has a list of stores where the solar glasses can be purchased or where to get them free.

▪  Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.

▪  Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device.

▪  Do not look at the sun through a camera, telescope, binoculars or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer. The concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.

▪  Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device. Solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens or other optics.