AUBURN — Dozens of children and several adults attended a special program Friday at the Auburn Public Library to hear retired science teacher Jon Wallace discuss Monday’s solar eclipse and explain how to safely observe it, as well as help the youths build pinhole projectors. 

The library has also handed out nearly 1,000 special eclipse safety glasses.

The Southworth Planetarium at the University of Southern Maine in Portland ran out of its allotment of more than 1,000 glasses earlier in the week. Its special viewing party to watch the eclipse at the planetarium filled up weeks ago.

Monday’s event in Maine will not even be a total solar eclipse, but eclipse-mania has nevertheless gripped the region.

Several viewing sessions are planned Monday, including at the Auburn and Norway public libraries. Wallace will join Southern Maine Astronomers, who will have several telescopes with special filters set up for viewing the partial eclipse in Freeport at L.L.Bean near the giant boot.

Referred to as “The Great American Eclipse,” the celestial event marks the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse will cross the United States from coast to coast (Oregon to South Carolina). It’s also the first one in the lower 48 states in 39 years.

The path of totality (total darkness), more than 800 miles away from Maine, will cover a 70-mile-wide swath through 14 states, when day will slip into darkness for 2½ minutes. During that brief time, temperatures will dip 10 to 15 degrees and the stars will be visible, as well as the sun’s corona.

The eclipse observed in Maine, weather permitting, will begin Monday at 1:29 p.m. and continue until 3:57 p.m. — peaking at approximately 2:45 p.m — with nearly 60 percent of the sun covered by the moon.

“There will be no real darkening, per se, as the light change will be imperceptible,” said Edward Gleason, director of Southworth Planetarium and USM astronomer. “But it is still a remarkable event.”

Without total blockage, the sun is not safe to look at without safety glasses. Wallace warned that the glasses need to be tightly covering the eyes to prevent the sun from leaking into the eyes above or below the glasses. The glasses should not be used with telescopes or binoculars. Telescopes require special lenses to safely view the eclipse.

Gleason said Monday’s historic event will be the most-watched eclipse in human history.

An estimated 200 million Americans live within a day’s drive of the path of totality.

According to published reports, schools located within the path are canceling classes and eclipse festivals are planned along the route. The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, a minor-league baseball team in Oregon, will halt play during Monday’s game with an eclipse delay.

Mainers may want to start planning now for their turn in the eclipse shadow. The next total solar eclipse to touch the U.S. on April 8, 2024, will have Maine in its crosshairs.

Traveling from Mexico to Canada, the path of totality in 2024 will touch northern Franklin and Somerset counties, and be visible in towns such as Rangeley, Carrabassett Valley and Jackman — providing it doesn’t snow that day.

That eclipse will keep the sky dark for four minutes — 90 seconds longer than Monday’s event.

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Denny’s in Auburn will offer all-you-can-eat “mooncakes” for $4 on Monday. “It’s how we are celebrating the eclipse this year,” said Assistant Manager Fallon McInnis, who hinted that they are regular “fluffy, shaped-like-the-moon” pancakes. 

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