It took just 4 minutes to give away 2,000 pair of eclipse glasses at Edgewater Mall on Friday as thousands of people lined up in hopes of scoring a pair for Monday’s solar eclipse.
“They’re sold out everywhere,” said Stephanie Lefebvre of Gulfport, who got to the mall early with her daughters to make sure they could get the glasses to protect their eyes and let them see the eclipse. Cindy Thomas of D’Iberville was there at 8 a.m. for the noon giveaway.
To show the public interest in the eclipse across South Mississippi, mall manager Terry Powell estimated more people came to the mall for this promotion than to see the New Orleans Saints in 2008.
Although some Coastians are heading across the country to experience the total eclipse of the sun, South Mississippi will have great opportunities — and parties — to celebrate the partial eclipse.
It’s too late to book a cruise with Bonnie Tyler singing her hit song “Total Eclipse of the Heart” just as the eclipse begins off the Coast of the Bahamas on Monday, or to get in on the “OutASight” Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Party in Georgia or the Howl at the Moon Music Festival outside Nashville, Tennessee.
Coast residents who stay home can join the party at Infinity Science Center in Hancock County, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport or at one of the libraries in Jackson and Harrison counties, which will be handing out eclipse glasses while supplies last.
The peak across South Mississippi comes at 1:30 p.m., when about 80 percent of the sun will covered as the moon passes between the Earth and sun. It still will be a good show before and after the peak, although protective glasses are required to look at the sun.
Only three U.S. companies make IS0-approved eclipse glasses verified safe by NASA and the American Astronomical Society, according to Eye Associates of the South, which gave away 300 pairs of those glasses to the public Friday. Even with approved glasses, ophthalmologist Rainna Bahaudur warns people not to watch the eclipse with binoculars, telescopes, mirrors, cameras or using zoom focus, which can cause severe retinal damage and serious or permanent vision loss.
It’s been 100 years since a solar eclipse crossed the continental United States, so it’s understandable why the nation has caught eclipse fever. The U.S. Postal Service will mark the day with a first of its kind Total Eclipse of the Sun Forever Stamp that changes from an eclipse image to the moon with the heat from a person’s finger. Once it cools it reverts back to the eclipse. The map on the back of the stamp shows the eclipse’s path.
Post offices in South Mississippi report being sold out of the stamps that also can be purchased online. The Bay St. Louis Post Office will host a stamp dedication at 9 a.m. Monday at Infinity Science Center. The dedication event is free and open to the public.
For those who will be traveling by plane Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration said the solar eclipse will not affect flights.
“Pilots can expect nighttime landing conditions during totality within the path of totality,” the FAA said. “Just before and after totality or outside the path will experience dusk/dawn like conditions to dark overcast-like conditions.”
Airline Pilots Association International recommends that pilots advise passengers that the only safe time to look at the sun without special glasses is during the brief period of totality.
The National Weather Service is predicting mostly sunny skies Monday across South Mississippi with a chance of showers and a thunderstorm — hopefully not during the peak of the party at 1:30 p.m. The next solar eclipse is in 2024 and “I’m going to be more prepared,” said Margaret Hopper of Ocean Springs, who arrived in time to get one pair of glasses at the mall Friday.
Planning your eclipse party
NASA has tips for those who want to host an eclipse party Monday:
▪ Choose a location where viewing parties are scheduled or throw a party in your backyard.
▪ If clouds move in or you’re inside the office, connect to NASA’s live streaming event that begins at 10:45 a.m.
▪ Join the discussion on social media
▪ Provide hands-on activities, such as showing how the little moon can hide the giant sun.
▪ Provide hand-outs and maps
▪ Use Eclipse 101 to field eclipse questions
Local eclipse events
Solar Eclipse Day at Infinity Science Center in Hancock County. Activities 9 a.m.-noon. Free solar glasses for watching eclipse at 1:30 p.m. $15 for adults, $12 for seniors age 55 and older, $12 for military and $8 for children ages 4-13
East Central Public Library, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Lucedale/George County Public Library, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Pascagoula Public Library, noon
Vancleave Public Library, noon
Solar Eclipse Watch Party at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, 12:30-2:30 p.m. with solar glasses and museum admission included. $10 for ages 1 and older, $8 for military and seniors age 62 and older and free for museum members.
Orange Grove Library, noon-3 p.m.
Gulfport Library, noon-3 p.m.
St. Martin Public Library, 1 p.m.