While it’s a bummer that this year’s total solar eclipse — set for the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 21 — won’t be viewable in its totality in Maine this time around, it’s still going to be a pretty remarkable astronomical event.
Folks in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina will be among the lucky ones that get to see the sun blocked out entirely by the moon. In the rest of the country, including Maine, we’ll only get to see a little over half of the sun blocked out — but considering the fact that that almost never happens, it’s well worth taking some time out to watch.
Here are some tips to maximize your eclipse viewing experience — and how to do it safely.
Get some glasses: NASA, the American Astronomical Society and the American Academy of Ophthalmology all want you to know that looking at the eclipse without proper eyewear could permanently damage your eyes. You don’t want that, do you? So make sure you get eclipse glasses, a.k.a. ones with lenses that have a shade of either 12 or higher. That does not, generally, include most welding glasses or shades, so if you think you can use yours, you might want to check and be certain before you put them on.
Fortunately, disposable eclipse glasses are pretty cheap — rarely more than $6 or $7 a pop — and most major stores are currently selling certified eclipse glasses, including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy and Home Depot. Amazon sells a five-pack of certified eclipse glasses for $35. And lots of places and organizations, including the Emera Maine Astronomy Center in partnership with the Bangor Public Library, Main Street Bucksport and the Portland Public Library, will have free eclipse glasses to give away while supplies last.
Get there on time: In Maine, the eclipse will begin slightly after 1 p.m., and will slowly grow in size until it reaches its peak at around 2:45 p.m. For about an hour, the light outside will be significantly dimmed, which, if you’ve never seen an eclipse, is pretty freaky when you first encounter it. Though there was a total solar eclipse visible in parts of North America in 1998 and 1993, Maine could barely see it. The last time there was a fully visible total eclipse in Maine was in 1970, and this eclipse will be the closest one to total since then.
Scope a good spot: Really, any place with wide open views of the sky is a good place to check out the eclipse — but since it’s in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday, it might be good to find a place that’s easy to access and won’t require lots of time to get to, since you might be coming to and from work.
Close to Bangor, the Emera Maine Astronomy Center will have a full day of programming, including showings of an eclipse-themed planetarium show at 10 and 11:30 a.m., and eclipse viewings from 1 to 4 p.m., with limited glasses available and the center’s telescope also available for use. If you really want to nerd out on astronomy, attend the 5:30 p.m. eclipse lecture by EMAC director Shawn Laatsch, set for the Bangor Public Library.
The Brewer Waterfront is one of the nicest spots in the Greater Bangor area to watch the sunset, so it stands to reason that it would also be a nice place to check out the eclipse. The sun will be moving westwards, so the Brewer Waterfront, with its parks, benches and two restaurants and bars with lots of outdoor seating (High Tide Restaurant and Mason’s Brewing Company), is ideal.
Bucksport Main Street, the energetic organization devoted to revitalizing Bucksport’s downtown, will host an eclipse viewing party at Flag Point Park starting at 2 p.m., with a limited supply of glasses to give out.
A bit further afield, a drive up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park would, of course, be an amazing place to see the eclipse, but let’s be honest — it’ll be a zoo up there that day, with no guarantee of parking. For something that’ll likely be a little less bonkers, Caterpillar Hill in Sargentville — in between Blue Hill and Deer Isle — is a great place to watch, as is Schoodic Point in the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park, in Winter Harbor.
If you’re in Portland, the Portland Public Library plans to give away eclipse glasses during the afternoon, and the University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium also has events planned. Another nice spot in town to check it out? The Western Promenade, with its sweeping vista of the west side of Portland.
Get ready for the next one: If, for whatever reason, you can’t see this one, fear not: there’s another total solar eclipse set for Monday, April 8, 2024 — and that one will indeed have totality in Maine, the first in over 50 years.