Astronomy fans around San Luis Obispo County can observe Monday morning’s the solar eclipse at several local viewing events.
In the San Luis Obispo area, the moon will pass in front of the sun starting about 8:40 a.m., peaking at 10:17 a.m. and ending at 11:39 a.m. At its high point, locally, the moon is expected to cover about 76 percent of the sun.
Some of the events will provide protective glasses or use telescopic lenses that protect viewers’ eyes, and experts warn people not to look directly at the sun, even during the partial eclipse.
Glimpses into the sun can cause blurry vision or even blindness.
“The pain receptors in the eye are sensitive to excessive light and glare levels but are insensitive to ultraviolet and therefore you can injure your eyes without knowing it until the damage is done,” said David Majors of the Central Coast Astronomical Society.
For those who don’t have protective glasses, other methods of viewing are advised that avoid peering into the sun.
Those include creating holes in a cardboard box or poking pinholes into paper and then using them to project the eclipse. Holes in tree canopies also project the partial eclipse. Many will see light shapes resembling a crescent moon because of the sun’s partial coverage.
If you want to get a look at the eclipse straight on, your best bet is to attend a local public viewing events, including:
- The Atascadero Library at 6555 Capistrano Way will hold a 9 a.m. gathering on the east side of its parking lot. Central Coast Astronomical Society President Joseph Carro is expected to speak about 10:30 a.m. The library has fewer than 100 safety-certified protective glasses to give out on a first-come, first-served basis. The library also will project the eclipse on a screen.
- Cuesta College will hold a viewing party from 9 to 10:30 a.m. on campus at its Bowen Observatory (Science Forum Room 2404). Views from a 14-inch telescope, filtering 99.99 percent of the light, will be available. Cuesta astronomy professor Patrick Len will show people how to use the telescope.
- Cal Poly’s physics department will host a viewing on campus near the Albert Einstein statue adjacent to the Baker Center (Building 180) from 9 a.m. to noon. Two physics instructional support technicians — Kevin Coulombe and Kevin Thompson — and a group of Cal Poly students will have five solar telescopes with protective solar filters and solar glasses available for observers to safely see the eclipse.
Some local schools also are holding viewing events for their students, including Sinsheimer Elementary in San Luis Obispo, which ordered protective glasses. Those events are not open to the public.
For those finding their own viewing locations, Majors said a potential hindrance may be cloudy conditions, especially along the coast.
10:17 morning peak coverage time for Monday’s eclipse
“The largest potential problem to be faced is going to be fog for the early phases of the eclipse,” Majors said. “Thus the best places will be north of the Grade with a clear view toward the southeast or well inland from the coast in South County. Almost any public place will do.”
Majors said Santa Margarita and Lopez lakes should be good areas absent lake fog, and in San Luis Obispo public parks could be a good spot.
Terry Agin, owner of Optical Concepts in Pismo Beach, said the 50 safety-certified glasses he ordered this week have all been sold and places elsewhere in the county that had safety glasses also have sold out.
Len said the eclipse will produce subdued light in the sky, but not anywhere close to dusk.
“It will be on par with a partly cloudy day,” Len said.
Cuesta College officials noted that the college offers courses in astronomy and astronomy research to those interested. For more information, call 805-546-3230.