Yorkers prepare for solar eclipse

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch
On Aug. 21, 2017, a total eclipse of the sun will span the entire United States, crossing from the West Coast to the East Coast, for the first time in 99 years. (Dreamstime/TNS)
  • School districts have decided differently on how to take on the solar eclipse.
  • A member of a local Astronomical society said not using eyewear could cause permanent eye damage.

Local schools, libraries and astronomy fans are preparing for the first total solar eclipse in more than two decades to be visible in York County.

A total solar eclipse will occur on Monday, Aug. 21, and span coast to coast in North America for the first time in nearly a century, according to NASA.

The eclipse will begin at 1:15 p.m. local time and hit peak coverage about 2:35 p.m. before ending at approximately 4 p.m., according to the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The last solar eclipse that could be seen in York County, in 1991, had only 20 percent coverage of the sun, according to NASA.

However, the last total solar eclipse with 80 percent coverage seen in York County — which is expected on Monday —  occurred in 1970. York County is not within the eclipse's path of totality of darkness, in which the moon completely blocks the sun.

Infographic on the total solar eclipse. Los Angeles Times 2017



Protection is 'critical': Adults and children alike should protect their eyes for the event, said Todd Ullery, a member of the York County Astronomical Society.

“The safety glasses are critical in an event like this,” he said.

He said permanent eye damage could be caused “in an instant” by looking at the eclipse.

Regular sunglasses, no matter how expensive or how dark, won’t properly protect your eyes, according to Ullery. He said the proper eyewear approved by NASA allows only 1 millionth of the sun’s light to reach the eye.

Hard to find: Glasses have been difficult to find in the weeks leading up to the eclipse. The York County Astronomical Society had several hundred glasses but quickly sold out. 

Online retailer Amazon removed several brands that impacted the plans of schools in Dover and at Penn State York.

According to campus spokeswoman Barbara Dennis, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute ordered and distributed 60 pairs for students of a class on astronomy, but Amazon eventually pulled those glasses from its website because of its inability to confirm whether they met NASA and American Astronomical Society standards.

OLLI has been “email blasting” all students in the class to return the glasses as soon as possible, Dennis said.

Eclipse glasses are displayed as thousands of Utah residents flock to the planetarium in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, to the glasses to make sure they get ones that aren't faulty following a recall issued by online retailer Amazon. The Clark Planetarium has seen a huge spike in sales this week of the facility's $2 glasses after the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah on Sunday, Aug. 13, told people to throw out the glasses the centre gave away this month because of the recall, said Rob Morris, director of operations. People could keep ones with a Clark Planetarium label, the centre said. (AP Photo/Brady McCombs)


After similarly ordering recalled glasses on Amazon, North Salem Elementary School will no longer hold an eclipse viewing event, according to Dover Area School District’s spokesman.

Meanwhile, prices for NASA and AAS-approved eyewear on Amazon have skyrocketed, ranging from about $50 for a five-pack for children to more than $200.

School plans: Area schools have either embraced or distanced themselves from the rare event.

Depending on the weather, York Suburban students will be viewing the eclipse with NASA-approved viewing glasses, according to district superintendent Shelly Merkle. She added that students will be educated on the subject as it is happening by school science teachers.

Similarly, elementary school students at West York will view the eclipse with approved viewing glasses, while secondary school students will watch a live stream of the event.

Dover Area School District has announced that students will be dismissed early on Monday, Aug. 21 — the district’s first day of classes — to “allow all of our students to arrive home safely prior to the eclipse," district spokesman Bradly Perkins said.

Students in grades 7-12 will be dismissed at 11 a.m., and elementary school students in Dover will be dismissed at noon.

The York City School District announced that schools will operate at regular hours on Monday, Aug. 21 — also its first day of classes — but the district will require all students to be indoors from 1 p.m. until regular dismissal at 3 p.m. for high school students and 3:45 p.m. for K-8 students.

Teachers will be encouraged to stream the eclipse for students, district Superintendent Eric Holmes said during a school board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 16.

During the meeting, board member Lois Garnett asked Holmes whether the dismissal during the eclipse would be safe for students walking home, since the event will end at approximately 4 p.m. locally.

“We don’t believe that’ll be an issue,” Holmes responded.

A request to speak with Holmes was not returned by a district spokeswoman.

Events: Several locations in York will hold viewing events, although availability of glasses are unknown.

The Consolidated School of Business in York City will be holding a viewing event from 1 to 3 p.m. at its campus, located at 1605 Clugston Road. Attendants will need to buy their glasses before the event. The school also will stream a live feed of a campus telescope for people to view at home.

The Collinsville Community Library in Red Lion will allow visitors to view the eclipse with the help of a telescope from astronomer Steve Buttner from 1 to 5 p.m.

In Dallastown, St. John's Blymire's United Church of Christ, located at 1009 Blymire Road, will host a viewing event from 1 to 4 p.m. Recently retired York County Parks employee Jeri Jones will have a solar-protected telescope at the event.

Although many have asked, the York County Astronomical Society’s membership of about 30 will not be hosting an event. Instead, most members are going out of state to view the event in the eclipse’s complete path of totality according to Ullery.

“For some of us, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.

For information about how to make an alternative viewing device for the solar eclipse, visit the York County Astronomical Society's website at www.ycas.org/solar_eclipse_viewing.htm