In Maryland, an 80 percent eclipse is in the forecast

People in 14 states will experience a couple of minutes of midnight today during a total solar eclipse.

Unfortunately, Maryland is not one of them.

If you are not among the thousands of Americans who planned their summer vacations somewhere along the path of the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in nearly a century, then you’re probably wondering where to find the optimum experience close to home.

The Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Oella, outside Baltimore, might be a good choice. You won’t have a special vantage, but you’ll at least see Maryland’s share of the eclipse from an inspiring place.

Banneker, a self-taught astronomer, mathematician and publisher of almanacs, is said to have put highly regarded scientists to shame by accurately predicting a solar eclipse in the late 19th century.

At the park and museum today, visitors can make a shoe-box viewer, peek through a telescope with a solar filter or borrow special glasses to witness the eclipse safely.

If you take up the Banneker museum’s invitation, don’t expect to experience darkness in the middle of the day. Maryland is well outside the “path of totality,” and though interest here is keen, some observers might be disappointed by the afternoon’s events.

While happy vacationers in South Carolina are experiencing total eclipse — for a bit more than two minutes, anywhere between 2:38 p.m. and 2:47 pm, depending on location — Marylanders will only be able to appreciate about 80 percent of it.

That’s even with cloudless skies, and the forecast for the Baltimore region today is “pretty iffy,” according to Ray Martin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“There’s a warm front moving through the area and there could be some scattered showers and thunderstorms,” he said. There’s about a 60 percent chance of heavy clouds, he said.

“There’s unfortunately a pretty good chance that there could be clouds blocking your view,” Martin said.

“What you might notice as you get to that 80 percent time, the temperature might change a little bit, the color of the sky might change slightly,” says Jim O’Leary, senior scientist of the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore, one of several institutions offering eclipse-related activities. “I’ve been telling people that if you didn’t know an eclipse was happening and you weren’t preparing for it, it could come and go and you wouldn’t even notice it, in this 80 percent area.”

“But,” O’Leary adds, “the great thing to pay attention to is that we are in a cosmic alignment where the sun, moon and Earth will line up to allow us to notice the darkened moon pass across the sun, perfectly predicted to the second. And with proper eye protection, we can take part in this rare cosmic occurrence.”

Eye protection is essential, experts say. If you do not have special solar eclipse glasses, looking at the eclipse can be harmful to the eyes, especially in places like Maryland, well outside the 70-mile-wide path where the moon totally blocks the sun.

There have been reports of fraudulent eclipse glasses, enough that NASA and the American Astronomical Society put together a list of reputable manufacturers.

If you don’t have glasses by today, you can find other ways to view the eclipse. NASA, for instance, will offer a live video stream, using images from 11 spacecraft, three aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons and the International Space Station. Other video streams are expected to be available online and on television.

From noon to 4 pm, the Maryland Science Center will offer a view through telescopes with solar filters. With paid admission, you can get a time-stamped ticket for access to the science center roof beginning at 10 a.m.

Other venues:

Maryland State Parks: From the Discovery Center at Deep Creek Lake State Park in western Maryland to Assateague State Park on the coast, six state parks are holding events for visitors, and some will loan glasses for viewing the eclipse.

Solar Eclipse Day at Port Discovery: 35 Market Place, Baltimore. Noon to 5 p.m., general admission, $15.95, portdiscovery.org. Port Discovery will host a number of eclipse-themed activities, including a discussion of the science behind the event, storytelling and arts and crafts.

Popscope Viewing: 2024 E. Monument St., Baltimore. 2 p.m.-3 p.m., free, twitter.com/bmorepopscope. Popscope, an organization that helps facilitate public astronomy, will be setting up a telescope with a solar filter on Monument Street. Anyone is welcome to come and take a look at the eclipse up close. Popscope has a limited supply of solar glasses.

Baltimore Sun reporters Carrie Wells, Michael Brice-Saddler and Danielle Ohl contributed to this article.

drodricks@baltsun.com

twitter.com/DanRodricks

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