On Monday, most Americans will witness a celestial phenomenon that hasn’t occurred during their lifetimes.
For the first time in nearly a century, the country will be swept by a total solar eclipse, when the moon blocks light from the sun.
“About 98 years ago was the last time we had a total eclipse that was visible from one side of the United States to the other side,” said Michael Narlock, head of astronomy at Cranbrook Institute of Science.
The last total eclipse in 1979 was only visible from five states, Narlock added, “and the weather wasn’t really good.”
This time, Michiganians will be able to take part in the event. Here’s what you need to know to prepare and not miss out.
Metro Detroit skies
States in a path of totality from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a total solar eclipse. Michigan, however, will see about 80 percent of the eclipse.
The partial eclipse will occur between 1:03 p.m. and 3:47 p.m. for Metro Detroiters. The prime viewing time is 2:27 p.m. During that period, the temperature will drop and the sky will get a little darker.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a cloudy day for most of lower Michigan on Monday’s highly anticipated gloomy day. There’s even a “real low chance” of showers in Metro Detroit, said Steven Freitag, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake.
“It’s looking unfavorable but there is a glimmer of hope,” Freitag said. “It’s possible the clouds could part in time and you will be able to witness this once in a seven year phenomenon.”
Cloud movement is tough to predict, Freitag said, and it’s possible our views of the eclipse may not be obscured. And the outlook could change depending on potential storms in northern Ohio Valley on Sunday night.
Solar eclipses occur about every 18 months, yet they’re usually only visible over bodies of water, Epstein said.
“For an solar eclipse to happen where there’s people, that’s even more rare,” she said.
Where to watch
Throughout the day, the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills and Michigan Science Center in Detroit will livestream the eclipse, showing what it looks like across the U.S.
Visitors can also make pinhole projectors to safely watch the eclipse without glasses.
Cranbrook will open its observatory 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for visitors to peer at the sun through its high-tech telescope. (Expect a line and only a few seconds per person). Special eclipse glasses will be sold in the gift shop on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 11 a.m.
The Michigan Science Center also has a limited supply of glasses to give out. Staff will organize Earth and space art projects and activities 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The planetarium will offer shows (at noon, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.) about the sun for an additional charge.
Several Metro Detroit libraries are hosting watch parties and giving out eclipse glasses. Some require registration, so call ahead.
A few local bars and restaurants will participate in the eclipse craze by offering specials and deals.
Happy hour prices start at 1 p.m. at the Royal Oak HopCat, where WDTW-FM (106.7) will broadcast from the roof. The Whitney mansion in Detroit is offering a “Moonbeam Tea.” For $50, patrons will receive a three-course lunch, teas brewed by the moonlight and glasses.
How to stay safe
Health officials warn to never stare directly at the sun. Doing so can damage your vision.
Certified eclipse glasses allow people to safely view the event. NASA recommends checking an online list of reputable manufactures vetted by the American Astronomical Society.
“You have to make sure they are certified, and you can’t see any light through them except for the light from the sun,” said Epstein, explaining many vendors are selling counterfeit glasses. “If you can see any other light through them, don’t use them.”
If you didn’t manage to snag a pair, experts suggest making a pinhole projector.
Take a heavy piece of paper, and poke a hole in it with a push pin, Narlock said. Then stand with your back to the sun.
“Use the piece of paper to project the image of the sun on the concrete,” Narlock said. “That way, you can watch the eclipse, but you’re not running the risk of burning your eyes.”
While people shouldn’t view the sun without certified glasses, Epstein assured it’s OK to step outside Monday afternoon.
“Staring at the sun can be dangerous,” she said, “but it is still safe to go outside and use those safe methods to take a look at the eclipse.”