Monday’s total solar eclipse will not be totally total here in San Francisco, only obscuring about 75 percent of our view of the sun at its height at 10:15 a.m. But it should still be quite a spectacle.
And observers who want to take in that spectacle will need the precaution of some spectacles. NASA warns solar gazers:
“The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses [...] or solar viewers.
“Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun; they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight.”
Only those within the totality of the eclipse (which lies both north and east of Northern California) can look at it safely with the naked eye, and even then only for a moment.
But locals who still don’t have specialized shades in hand will have to hunt around and hope they haven’t all been snatched up by other eager would-be cosmic observers. A few potential leads:
- The San Francisco Main Library will have 300 pairs for guests of their viewing party on Monday, “first come, first serve.” Remember, it won’t get completely dark here, so people will see you if you try to cut in line.
- Previously, America’s libraries had millions of pairs of give-away glasses. Most of them are gone, but the Space Science site map still lists the Ortega Street branch as an SF pick-up point, so it may be your last best hope.
- The Exploratorium sells eclipse glasses for $2.75 each, although they warned the San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday that they were selling out fast.
- Earlier this week the South San Francisco Library was advertising some of the free shades through Saturday. But only “as supplies last,” so it is definitively time to start hurrying.
- For the truly desperate, the Lick Observatory in Hamilton City was also still packing specs this week, at $2.50 each. That’s Hamilton City in Glenn County, by the way, more than 160 miles from San Francisco. But the next total solar eclipse won’t hit Northern California until 2045 (giving us a much better view then), so for some it might be worth the trek.
- The San Jose Mercury News reported this week that Lowe’s stores in Richmond and Gilroy still had plenty in stock. There may yet be a pair in waiting if you call around.
- Finally, although vendors like 7-11, Best Buy, Toys R Us, and Walmart said they sold out days or even weeks ago, it is barely possible that they’ve gotten a few of the hot-sellers back in stock at the last minute (or were holding a strategic reserve to boost the price just before the big event). This is pretty desperate, but that’s what comes of desperate times.
On a final note, beware of shady deals on off-brand eclipse glasses that may not actually protect your eyes. Anyone who has a suspiciously high volume of solar-shielded specs might be trying to sell you a corona calamity in the making.