How to experience Monday’s solar eclipse from Berkeley

Eclipse watching at the Lawrence Hall of Science in 2012. Photo: Elazar Sontag

Don’t say we didn’t warn you: Berkeleyside urged readers back in 2010 to mark their calendars and make their plans for Monday’s total solar eclipse.

An exceedingly rare phenomenon, people are traveling from afar to get a spot within the path of the totality, where the moon will completely cover the sun for an estimated 2-3 minutes. Anyone in North America could potentially view a partial eclipse, but only those along the path of the totality, from Oregon to South Carolina, will have a chance for the full experience.

Even though we aren’t within that path, people around the Bay Area are still finding ways to get a good glimpse of the event. Here are a few possibilities and ideas for locals who don’t want to miss out on the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse.

The central branch of the Berkeley Public Library, which has been giving away safe eclipse viewing glasses while they last, is holding a viewing party on the front steps from 9-11:30 a.m. at 2090 Kittredge St.


And up at the Lawrence Hall of Science, live feeds along the path of the totality will be streaming in the auditorium from 9 a.m. to noon (free with museum admission), and an interactive Planetarium show ($4) will take place after the eclipse to help attendees understand “why this year’s eclipse is such a big deal.” The plaza will be open for eclipse viewing, too, with coffee from Sightglass and pastries from Starter Bakery for sale. On the lawn, there will be hands-on solar activities available: solar telescopes to view the surface of the sun, a 3D model of the eclipse, and chances to “experiment with pinholes to create mini eclipse images.” Parking will likely be limited, and hundreds of people are expected to visit the hall at 1 Centennial Dr. Viewing glasses will be available for purchase while supplies last.

The Lawrence Hall of Science has put together five tips for eclipse viewing that range from planning ahead to using eye protection and checking the weather.

UC Berkeley is also working on a “citizen science project” with Google to collect images of the eclipse for the first Eclipse Megamovie. They’ve teamed up with 1,500 trained volunteers, but welcome images from the general public too. Learn how to participate.

Below, UC Berkeley astrophysicist Alex Filippenko — who spoke at last year’s Uncharted festival — offers some tips for viewing a total solar eclipse.

Want more options for viewing parties nearby? Check out the guides from Funcheap SF, KQED and Curbed. KQED is planning to offer live blog coverage Monday, and live radio reports from Oregon and Idaho. Know of other local events? Share them in the comments section below.


Authorities say the sun will be 76% obscured in Northern California on Monday, and the next eclipse of this magnitude is not expected until 2045. The next total solar eclipse to cross the United States is coming sooner, however, on April 8, 2024.

The bad news is that, if you don’t already have appropriate eyewear for viewing the eclipse, many vendors have said they’re sold out. A pinhole camera is another option for those who’ve found themselves unprepared.

Another wildcard is the weather, which may be cloudy around Berkeley (Oakland is the nearest city listed in an interactive map created by the National Centers for Environmental Information). See the latest forecasts online.

State authorities have also asked Californians to reduce their energy usage during the eclipse to make up for the solar energy expected to be lost Monday morning. The “Do Your Thing for the Sun” campaign includes a pledge to reduce energy usage by turning off lights, replacing lightbulbs with LEDs and more.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “power generation at California’s large solar plants could drop by 64 percent and take about 90 minutes to bounce back to pre-eclipse levels.” It’s an issue to be aware of, but not to fear, they say: “The good news is grid operators will have a range of options at hand while the sun takes its brief, but expected vacation.”


Read more from NASA about Monday’s eclipse. NASA’s live feed of the eclipse will be posted online.