Where to Catch the Solar Eclipse in the Philadelphia Area
Here's how to be safe while watching this exciting event.
You probably know by now that a solar eclipse is happening August 21, and you probably want your kids to see it. But what does it mean, and how can you watch safely? Here’s a cheat sheet for enjoying this unusual event with confidence.
What’s going to happen?
A solar eclipse is where the moon passes in between the sun and Earth. The three planets align about once every 18 months, but a total solar eclipse is much more rare — the last time a total eclipse was visible in the contiguous Unites States was 38 years ago.
The path of “totality” — where a total eclipse will be visible — is a narrow band that starts in Oregon and ends near Charleston, South Carolina. The greater Philadelphia area isn’t in that path, so we’ll see a partial eclipse. According to this NASA map, our area should begin experiencing the partial eclipse around 1:20 pm. The peak of about 80 percent totality will happen in Philly around 2:44 pm, and will last about two minutes; the whole thing will be over by about 4 pm.
This is a key thing to consider as you’re making your plans. Looking directly at the sun can cause major damage to your eyes, so don’t do it! There are two ways to directly and indirectly view the eclipse safely, and because the Philadelphia area is just outside the path of totality, it is important to view through a filter in order to observe the eclipse. (Those who are lucky enough to be in the path of totality actually can look at the sun during the peak.)
“If you’re under 90 to 95 percent coverage, don’t expect the sky to to change very much,” said Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute in a helpful Facebook Live Q and A. “Any portion of the sun that’s visible is just as bright as the rest of the sun.”
That being said, don’t underestimate the importance of eye safety during this event. Looking for more details? NASA has a great page about eclipse safety.
If you want to look directly at the sun, using eclipse glasses will allow you to observe without causing damage to your eyes. However, it is important to make sure that the glasses meet the ISO 12312-2 safety requirements, so verified glasses will state that on the packaging. Here is a list of reputable brands that are verified with the ISO 12312-2 requirements.
Many viewing parties will also provide glasses, but it’s smart to be prepared with your own pair to avoid any shortages. Be sure to read reviews to make sure that your glasses have not been recalled and that they are up-to-standard with the safety requirements. Glasses may be purchased locally, but be sure to double check that they are verified. (The Franklin is currently out of stock, but is expecting more to come in before the eclipse.)
If you are choosing to look at the eclipse directly, it is very important to make sure that you do not use sunglasses or any other glasses to do so. If you are taking pictures or looking through binoculars, it is important to have solar filters on top of whatever you are looking through to be completely safe. Make sure that the filters are not scratched or punctured.
Another way to view the eclipse is indirectly, with a pinhole camera or handheld viewing device that projects an image of the sun onto a surface. This can be done with your hands, or by using a telescope or binoculars. Many viewing parties will have make-your-own pinhole cameras, but they can also be constructed at home very inexpensively — even with just an index card.
The most important thing to remember about using pinhole cameras is that you still are not looking directly at the sun, but rather, an image of the sun is projected onto a flat surface. Pinhole cameras are also not the best way to view the entire phase of the total solar eclipse, but is a cool addition to eclipse glasses because you can use creativity and construction skills to craft a device. More information on pinhole cameras can be found on the American Astronomy Society’s website.
Want to make a safe viewer at home? Here are three ways to do it:
Where to Watch
Assuming the weather is clear and you have a safe way to view the eclipse, you can watch it from anywhere. But there are plenty of places in the area that are holding parties to catch the fun in groups.
222 N. 20th St., Philadelphia, noon — 4 pm
Build a safe solar viewer and learn all about astronomy with an exclusive live broadcast from the one of the totality spots in Missouri. This event is free with admission to the museum.
1700 W. Montgomery Ave., Philadelphia, 12:30 — 4:30 pm
Make your own pinhole camera to view the eclipse and take part in eclipse model demonstrations with this free event. Pre-registration has ended, so while you can still come by for fun, bring your own viewing glasses.
211 S. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia, noon — 4 pm
Bring your own picnic chairs and blankets to gather with a crowd. Eclipse glasses will be available for purchase for $3.
Academic quad, bordered by High and Church streets and Rosedale and University avenues), West Chester, 1 — 4 pm
Gather to watch the eclipse with education activities for kids of all ages, plus eclipse glasses and viewers on hand.
1022 Ridge Ave., Darby, noon — 4 pm
The library will provide free viewing glasses, show the live NASA coverage, and have science exhibits and quizzes for a day of fun.
518 Northampton St., Easton, 1 — 4 pm
Learn all about the eclipse with demonstrations and light refreshments. Eclipse glasses will be provided on a first come, first served basis.
5325 Overbrook Ave., Philadelphia, 1 pm
Make eclipse viewers and check out the eclipse either in the backyard or with a livestream!
41 Adams Dam Road, Wilmington, Delaware, 12:30 — 3 pm
The viewing scopes and astronomy experts will be out, and you can make your own pinhole camera. Call 302-655-5740 to register.
Being your own glasses or viewer and a picnic for an informal get-together.
4321 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, 10 am — 5 pm
Want to celebrate inside? Kids can make solar-inspired art, enjoy a story, and even salute the sun with yoga! It’s all free with admission to the museum.
Other Open Fields and Parks to View the Eclipse
1800 Belmont Mansion Dr., Philadelphia
Penn Treaty Park
1301 N. Beach St., Philadelphia
129 S. 30th St., Philadelphia
Valley Forge National Historical Park
1400 N. Outer Lane Dr., King of Prussia
Wilson Farm Park
500 Lee Road, Chesterbrook
Teegarden State Park
440 Old State Road, Berwyn
Rose Tree Park
1671 North Providence Rd. Rt. 252, Media
Photograph via iStock.