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TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE SUN

While Minnesota may not get a total eclipse, we have the eclipse viewing parties to make up for it

By Lianna Matt

Across the country, people are making plans for Aug. 21 to see the solar eclipse. The partial eclipse will be visible for a total of about three hours, and the total eclipse is visible for a little over two minutes if you’re in the eclipse's path. This summer’s total solar eclipse stretches across the U.S. from the northwest corner to the southeast, giving people in Minnesota an 80 percent-covered eclipse at about 1:06 p.m. The closest total eclipse spots are near Lathrop and St. Joseph, both in Missouri.

Years and years ago when a solar eclipse occurred, the Vikings would say the sky wolves caught the sun, and the Vietnamese told stories of it being eaten by a toad. In a more active response, the Ojibwe shot flaming arrows into the sky to relight the sun. Now we know that solar eclipses are caused by the moon placement in front of the sun. August’s solar eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse visible in any part of the country since 1991, and it is has been 38 years since a total solar eclipse path has passed completely across the continental U.S.

Although the sun becomes less visible during an eclipse, you must protect your eyes during all of its partial phases. NASA recommends using solar filters or solar viewers; even dark sunglasses are insufficient. Another way to protect your eyes is to use the good old fashioned pinhole/projection box set up. For those who want to take pictures to remember the moment, never use an unfiltered camera to view the sun.


The eclipse phenomena might only last a few minutes, but it’s long enough to cause a mass migration. For instance, the city of Salem, Oregon, estimates that 100,000 people will visit just to be in the eclipse path. While Minnesota might not be in the total eclipse path, the event has still spawned several viewing parties. Check out these ones happening around the Twin Cities on Aug. 21:

Afton State Park: Have a picnic during the eclipse at Afton State Park from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. All you need is a blanket and some food—they’ll even have a food truck on hand. Learn about how eclipses happen and make an eclipse viewer while supplies last. Looking for more eclipses in the park? Check out the Dodge Nature Center, Silverwood Park or the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

Eden Prairie Hennepin County Library: Join the lawn party over at the Eden Prairie county library from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. It’s bring your own chair, water and food, but the library’s Teen Tech Squad will help you make a pinhole viewer before the partial eclipse begins. Eclipse viewing glasses will also be on hand, and as the eclipse passes through, you can take part in other activities. Other Hennepin County Library eclipse parties can be found here, and the St. Paul Public Library system is joining in on the fun with their own events.

Hopkins Community Education: Since the solar eclipse takes place over the span of a few hours, why not get comfortable while it happens? At the Hopkins Community Education Observatory Classroom, people can safely view the partial solar eclipse through the NASA video feed and a telescope that projects a small image of the sun.

Science Museum of Minnesota: Venture over to St. Paul for a family friendly afternoon of make-and-take projects, learning and space activities from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. When the big moment does happen, you’ll see it from the level 3 terrace of the museum through your own free eclipse-viewing glasses. Admission to the museum is necessary to go to this party, so before or after the maximum shadow, make sure to explore the interactive Science Behind Pixar exhibit that's here this summer.

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