Towson library to host eclipse viewing party

The Baltimore County Public Library branch in Towson will host a special viewing party ahead of a total solar eclipse that is expected to occur Aug. 21 — though an official added that an unexpected level of interest in the event might mean that the library won't have enough special glasses on hand needed for viewing the eclipse.

The last time the contiguous United States saw a total eclipse was in 1979, according to NASA.

Though Maryland is not within the 70-mile-wide path in which it will be possible to see the moon completely cover the sun, observers in Towson should see a partial solar eclipse with about 80 percent of the sun covered by the moon.

The library's Great American Solar Eclipse Party is set from noon to 4 p.m. A themed storytime, crafts and a live stream of the eclipse will precede a viewing of the solar eclipse.

The start of a partial eclipse is expected in Towson at around 1:15 p.m. with a peak at 2:42 p.m. and an ending just after 4 p.m., according to NASA.

"This is one of those once in a lifetime special events, so we did want to do programs on [the eclipse]," Towson library programming coordinator Heather Mays said, adding that the library's supply of special glasses needed to watch the eclipse safely is expected to surpass its supply.

The only safe way to look directly at the sun is through glasses made of solar filters, commonly known as eclipse glasses, according to NASA's website.

"It seemed like a great idea, but we were just simply not prepared for the demand for the solar glasses," Mays said of the event. "I don't think we were expecting this fervor over it. "

One hundred of the approved viewing glasses will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis following the 11:30 a.m. storytime.

The glasses will be distributed two per family. Any remaining glasses will be distributed at the library information desk at 1 p.m.

"From the moment we open, until we close, the phone has been ringing with about 50 calls an hour just for the eclipse glasses, and we only have 100 pairs to hand out," Mays said. "It's going to be crazy."

Libarary branches in Arbutus, Catonsville, Parkville and Northpoint will also host viewing parties, with glasses available while supplies last. The Woodlawn, Rosedale and Reisterstown branches required registration for their events and are full, according to the library's website.

For those not attending the library event but attempting to score glasses the pickings are slim.

Associates at the Towson Walmart, on Putty Hill Avenue, and Lowe's Home Improvement, in Parkville, said the stores sold out of glasses but continue to get dozens of calls a day from people who are searching for the hard-to-find spectacles.

Towson University's Department of Physics, Astronomy & Geosciences has about 50 pairs of glasses left to distribute to the community. The glasses can be picked up at Smith Hall, Room 445, between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Glasses are limited to one per person and will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Mays said library visitors will be able to craft pinhole projectors to view shadows of the eclipse if they do not get glasses. For those purchasing their own, Mays said safe glasses must be marked with "ISO 12312-2."

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