A close encounter between the sun and the moon is about to take place, and Long Islanders are making plans to gather, watch and celebrate. After all, it’s the first visible total solar eclipse in the United States in almost four decades.
“The path of this eclipse is a bit rare; there hasn’t been a transcontinental eclipse in the United States for 100 years,” says Kerri Kiker, an education coordinator at the Cradle of Aviation Museum.
The Garden City museum, the Custer Institute and Observatory in Southold, the Fire Island National Seashore Wilderness Visitor Center and the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill are among local spots that will celebrate the Great American Eclipse with viewing parties. They’ll also have solar glasses for watching the celestial show.
“Your eyes can be easily damaged by looking directly at the sun without protection,” says Anne Spooner, an observatory staff member. “Disposable solar-viewing glasses are an easy, cheap and safe way to observe the solar eclipse.”
More than 2 million eclipse glasses will be given out free of charge by more than 7,000 public libraries across the United States, including about a dozen on Long Island, in a program that is being mounted with help from the National Center for Interactive Learning. (To find out if a library near you is participating, click on spacescience.org/software/libraries/map.php.) Eyewear retailer Warby Parker also has free eclipse glasses at each of its 55 locations, including five in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn.
In a total solar eclipse, the moon completely covers the sun. In New York, the eclipse will be at 70 percent, creating a sense of sunset in the middle of the day from 2:15 to 2:45, experts say.
The last time a total solar eclipse was visible in the United States was in 1979, according to Spooner, and the next will take place in 2024.
WHERE TO WATCH
The Cradle of Aviation will have a viewing space showing the eclipse’s path as it crosses the country. Visitors can also decorate their own pinhole projectors to use during the eclipse and listen to a talk about sun safety. “Space News,” about the science behind eclipses, will be showing live in the planetarium for an additional cost.
At the Custer Institute, eclipse viewing will be the focus and the facility’s telescopes will be fitted with solar filters to protect the eyes. On Saturday, Aug. 19, at 7 p.m., a solar eclipse film will be shown with a chance to view the night sky afterward.
The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill and Montauk Observatory will co-host a watch party on the Parrish lawn. A Montauk Observatory astronomer will answer questions and operate a telescope that will allow visitors to safely view the eclipse. Guests can bring blankets or lawn chairs for outdoor viewing. Free solar viewing glasses will be available. The Parrish also will stream the total eclipse live from NASA in the Lichtenstein Theater.
At the Fire Island National Seashore Wilderness Visitor Center, a park ranger will lead a discussion and a short solar eclipse beach stroll. Special solar glasses will be given to the first 100 visitors. Guests are advised to bring water for the half-mile trek.
“To see the sun disappear and day become night — even if it’s not complete darkness — is nature’s disappearing act,” says Catherine Bingham, education director at the Cradle of Aviation. “It’s just like magic to witness how celestial objects cross paths to create stunning visuals.”
Custer Institute and Observatory
WHEN | WHERE 1-4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, 1115 Main Bayview Rd., Southold
INFO 631-765-2626, custerobservatory.org
COST Suggested donation of $5 for adults and $3 ages 12 and younger, includes disposable solar-viewing glasses
Cradle of Aviation Museum
WHEN | WHERE Noon to 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, Charles Lindbergh Boulevard, Garden City
INFO 516-572-4111, cradleofaviation.org
COST Free with regular admission of $15, $13 ages 2-12 and 62 and older; $20 eclipse gear bundles, including glasses, a T-shirt and a hat, limited number of solar glasses available for free
Parrish Art Museum
WHEN | WHERE 1-4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill
INFO 631-283-2118, parrishart.org
Fire Island National Seashore Wilderness Visitor Center
WHEN | WHERE 1:30-3:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 21, County Rd. 46, Shirley
INFO 631-281-3010, email firstname.lastname@example.org
COST Free; $9 parking for Suffolk residents with Green Key Card, $18 for nonresidents at Smith Point County Park, 1 William Floyd Pkwy., Shirley
Help your kids become Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorers with a free, downloadable booklet put out by the National Park Service and The Planetary Society.
The booklet explains the different types of eclipses, how to protect your eyes and more. Download and print a booklet from nps.gov.
— Beth Whitehouse