The Great American Solar Eclipse: What to expect in Hampton Roads

The moon is seen blocking the sun in Silverton, Oregon on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit: NASA


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Millions of Americans will plunge into total darkness in the middle of Monday afternoon, thanks to the total solar eclipse. But what will it be like here in Hampton Roads? Not quite as dark.

“In Norfolk, we’re going to get an 88 percent coverage. So it might get dark enough to be able to see Venus during the day time,” explained Justin Mason, Old Dominion University’s Planetarium Director.

Those in the eclipse’s path of totality — which stretches from Oregon diagonally across the country ending near Charleston, South Carolina — will see a few minutes of total darkness. In Hampton Roads, it will still be dark enough for temperatures to drop about 10 degrees, Mason says.

Special Coverage: Solar Eclipse 2017 | Eclipse Coverage Map

The darkness is produced by the alignment of the moon in front of the sun casting the moon’s shadow onto earth and blocking the sun’s rays.

“It will start getting close to dawn or dusk kind of feel. It will start getting kind of dark, birds might go to sleep a little bit, they start thinking its nighttime,” Mason explained.

The eclipse will begin around 1:13 p.m., depending on your exact location. The peak darkness will occur around 2:45 p.m., and the shadow will leave just after four in the afternoon.

But Mason says it’s extremely important to be safe while watching the eclipse, and that includes wearing protective glasses with an ISO rating.

“They block out 99.99 percent of the light,” Mason said.

One way to test your glasses: “If you do have a pair of let’s say the uncertified or fake glasses that have been selling, you might be able to see normal household lamps just walking around. If you can see that, if it’s like a dark pair of sunglasses, it’s not good enough.”

How to safely view the solar eclipse and where to get glasses

If you want to snap some pictures or view the eclipse through a telescope, Mason urges caution. Lenses on cameras and telescopes let in more light than your eye does, so simply wearing protective glasses is not enough. You have to filter your camera or telescope lens.

“If you do try to wear glasses and look through a telescope, it’s going to burn right through the material of the glasses and right into your eye and probably cause permanent damage.”

Hampton Roads Eclipse Watch Parties

Mason is prepared. At ODU, there will be a watch party from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday. They’ll have large, filtered telescopes for visitors to peek through, and they’ll have 1,000 certified, safe glasses to hand out for free. The event is open to the public.

If you miss Monday’s eclipse because you’re stuck inside, the next one visible in the United States will be in 2024.