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The solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the sun and the earth. The Aug. 21 eclipse will be seen partially in Bakersfield, but to view it safely, you'll need eclipse glasses.

Courtesy of NASA

Rest assured, Aug. 21 will not be your average Monday. Sure, work or school are likely on the itinerary but so is the solar eclipse. The first total eclipse visible from the contiguous United States in 38 years, this spectacle of moon passing between the earth and the sun will be a sight to behold — but you'll need to do it safely.

On Saturday, the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science will host "Eclipse Across America," offering some background on the solar eclipse is and the best way to see it. The event will be led by Roberta Parnell, a teacher in Delano and a local NASA solar system ambassador.

The event is aimed toward children, with the first 20 receiving special eclipse viewing glasses from NASA, but Parnell knows the "great American eclipse" will be of interest to adults too.

"What's so cool about this solar eclipse is it traverses the United States," Parnell said. 

While Bakersfield won't get totality, or a complete solar eclipse, we can expect to see about 67 percent to 73 percent of the sun obscured. The path of totality stretches from Lincoln Beach, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, hitting parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee on the way.

"That so many people will have access to it makes it a super event," Parnell said.

Though solar eclipses aren't necessarily once-in-a-lifetime events, they are rare, especially one like this year's, which goes across so much of the country. The last total solar eclipse visible in the continental U.S. was in February 1979.

The next solar eclipse in America will be in 2024, going northeast from Texas to Maine, so Californians who want to see a true total eclipse will again have to travel. There will be several others throughout the 21st century, though none are projected to put Bakersfield in the path of totality.

In Bakersfield, the eclipse will start at about 9:04 a.m., with the peak happening at 10:20 a.m. and lasting just a couple minutes. It will end at 11:43 a.m.

"We're not going to go completely dark, but we'll know something is covering the sun," said Koral Hancharick, executive director of the Buena Vista Museum. "It's a very exciting event."

Since California isn't seeing totality in this eclipse, it won't see the corona, the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere. Even though we're just seeing a partial eclipse, though, special eclipse glasses are still essential to view it, Parnell said. The light of the eclipse can cause permanent damage to your eyes, and normal sunglasses will not protect them.

"The only safe way to view a partial eclipse is with eclipse glasses," Parnell said.

Be careful when buying eclipse glasses, though. Look for ones that are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standards. And be sure to put them on and take them off looking away from the sun.

"They have to be on correctly," Parnell said. "If the film gets damaged in any way, you're not protected."

It is also not safe to look at the eclipse through a camera, telescope, binoculars or other optical device, with or without eclipse glasses. For those who wear regular eyeglasses, eclipse glasses can be worn over them. 

Of course, there's also the DIY projectors, though it's important to never look directly at the eclipse using one of those. Using a pinhole projector, you can see an image of the eclipse without looking directly at it. (To learn how to make a shoebox projector, see accompanying article.)

Many people who don't live along the path of totality are traveling just to see a true, 100 percent total eclipse, including Parnell, who will be heading to Idaho. For those who can't chase the eclipse, NASA will be doing a live video stream at eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

"We want everyone at least to go outside, but there are so many other ways to experience an eclipse other than looking directly at it," Parnell said, encouraging people to "experience this incredible solar system that we're a part of."

Those interested in attending the event at the museum with their kids are encouraged to call 324-6350 and get on a list, as space is limited. 

Along with the Buena Vista event, the Kern Astronomical Society will host an event on Saturday at Beale Memorial Library. Members will set up solar telescopes for viewing and offer informational sessions on safe viewing and background on the eclipse. That gathering runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with sessions at noon and 1 p.m.

Kelly Ardis can be reached at 661-395-7660. Follow her on Twitter at @TBCKellyArdis.

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