Stop what you're doing and watch the solar eclipse

Eisenhower Library will host an eclipse viewing party on the Beach from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Video: NASA Goddard

For two hours this afternoon, Johns Hopkins University faculty, staff, and students are invited to gather on The Beach at the university's Homewood campus as the moon, the earth, and the sun align, casting the city into a dim half-light.

In 14 states across the U.S.—from Lincoln Beach, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina—the moon will pass directly between the earth and the sun. In this swath, called the path of totality, the moon will completely block the sun for a period of up to two minutes and 40 seconds. An estimated 7 million people are expected to travel to these states to view the total solar eclipse—the first of its kind since 1970.

A nine-stage image shows a black circle occluding a gray circle, representing the various stages of the solar eclipse

Image caption: The eclipse will occur in stages, shown here, while the moon, the sun, and the earth rotate. The process is expected to take about 3 hours, with the most occlusion taking place at 2:43 p.m. in Baltimore.

Image credit: NASA Goddard

Although Baltimore falls outside the path of totality, a substantial portion of the sun will be blocked by the moon. The moon will cross paths with the sun for a period lasting up to three hours from beginning to end, with the moon obstructing 80 percent of the sun at 2:43 p.m.

The Milton S. Eisenhower Library, which is sponsoring the viewing party, will have materials on hand for people who bring their own boxes to make pinhole viewers. There will also be a limited amount of NASA-approved viewing glasses. These viewers are essential in areas of the U.S. where the partial eclipse will be visible, because looking into the part of the sun that is unobstructed by the moon could cause severe eye damage—although Herman Heyn, the self-dubbed "Baltimore Street-Corner Astronomer," notes that the spaces in between the leaves of a tree could also act as a pinhole viewer.

"This means that if we look down at the brick path in front of the library, there might be quite a spectacular view of lots of little eclipses," says librarian Sue Vazakas.

In a pinch, you can also fashion your own last-minute eclipse-viewing device out of a cereal box by following the simple steps in this NASA video.

For more details about today's eclipse party on Homewood campus, visit the Hub calendar event listing, and visit the Department of Physics and Astronomy eclipse information page for tips on other Baltimore area viewing locations.