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WVU Planetarium and Observatory to host pre-eclipse event Aug. 19

Almost every 18 months, a total solar eclipse is visible to some part of the world. However, the United States hasn’t had a total solar eclipse since 1994. For the first time during the 21st century, a total solar eclipse will be visible across the United States on Monday, Aug. 21.  

To help prepare the community for the “Great American Eclipse,” the West Virginia University Planetarium and Observatory is hosting a pre-eclipse event from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 19.

The event will include special planetarium shows, mini-lectures and Q&A sessions with astronomers, hands-on eclipse activities, patio and rooftop viewing with telescopes, and free safe-viewing eclipse glasses that guests can keep and use during Monday’s eclipse viewing.  

Kathryn Williamson
Kathryn Williamson

“We really wanted to take the approach of preparing people, to give them the safe glasses that they need, so they can experience this with their families,” said Kathryn Williamson, assistant professor and director of the WVU Planetarium.  “I hope that people remember this for the rest of their lives and maybe that it sparks their desire to be a scientist or just have an interest in science and our world.” 

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely covers the sun, causing a shadow and temporary darkness. Totality, when the moon covers the sun 100 percent, for the Great American Eclipse occurs in a 70 mile stretch from Oregon to South Carolina.  

West Virginia will see up to 90 percent coverage during the eclipse.  

The Department of Physics and Astronomy and WVU Extension Service  collaborated with the Green Bank Observatory and the West Virginia Space Grant Consortium to send 17,500 eclipse glasses to 290 schools across West Virginia. WVU Extension Service also provided glasses to 4-H camps, and extra glasses  will be available to WVU students outside the Mountainlair on the day of the eclipse.

“It’s a natural phenomenon, it inspires that wonderment of the universe,” said Williamson. “It’s a chance for us to all learn and observe the universe together.”

The Great American Eclipse will begin around 1:11 p.m., Aug. 21, and maximum coverage will occur at 2:36 p.m. To learn more about the Great American Eclipse and the pre-eclipse event, visit

The WVU Planetarium and Observatory brings science to life for thousands of families, students and friends each year thanks to generous donor support. To learn more about how to make a gift to the planetarium, visit or call the EberlyCollege of Arts and Sciences Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 304-293-6308.