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Where in the Bay Area to watch this spring’s rare solar eclipse

A crowd wearing special glasses looks up at the sky, likely viewing an eclipse, with excited expressions and gestures.
Californians watch the last U.S. solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. The eclipse on April 8 will stretch to nearly four and a half minutes—almost twice as long. | Source: Richard Vogel/Associated Press

On April 8, the United States will experience a rare celestial event: a total solar eclipse. For a few hours, the moon will travel in front of the sun, blocking it completely.

In San Francisco, the eclipse will begin around 10:14 a.m., with the peak blockage of the sun occurring about an hour later. About 44% of the sun will be obscured in San Francisco.

Southern California will get more of a show, with Old Town San Diego, for example, experiencing 62% blockage of the sun.

When the total solar eclipse creates a spectacle in the skies over Mexico and North America, it will mark the first time such an event has occurred in this part of the world for nearly seven years.

There won’t be another U.S. eclipse, spanning coast to coast, until 2045. That one will stretch from Northern California all the way to Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The peak spectacle on April 8 will last up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds in the path of total darkness—twice as long as the total solar eclipse that dimmed U.S. skies in 2017.

This eclipse will take a different and more populated route, entering over Mexico’s Pacific coast, dashing up through Texas and Oklahoma, and crisscrossing the Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and New England before exiting over eastern Canada into the Atlantic.

An estimated 44 million people live inside the 115-mile-wide path of totality stretching from Mazatlán, Mexico, to Newfoundland; about 32 million of them are in the U.S., guaranteeing jammed roads for the must-see celestial sensation.

The eclipse will allow many to share in the “wonder of the universe without going very far,” said NASA’s eclipse program manager Kelly Korreck.

Fifteen U.S. states will get a piece of the action.

While California isn't in the path of totality, that doesn't mean you won't be able to partake in the rare event. Practically everyone on the continent can catch at least a partial eclipse, and the Bay Area offers several options for viewing the eclipse up close.

A solar eclipse with the Sun's corona visible around the moon's silhouette.
The sun was partially eclipsed in the first phase of a total eclipse in Grand Teton National Park outside Jackson, Wyoming, in 2017. Businesses are preparing for the 2024 celestial event with everything from eclipse-viewing flights to eclipse-themed doughnuts. | Source: George Frey/Getty Images


The Exploratorium will host a watch party at Pier 15, where you'll be able to view live telescope images of the total solar eclipse from Texas and Mexico.

Visitors who attended the event will get a free pair of solar eclipse viewing glasses while supplies last and learn safe viewing techniques from Exploratorium educators. There will also be activities to learn about the science of the eclipse.

The Exploratorium says members of its After Dark program can visit the museum on this day and receive free daytime admission. This event is free for daytime members and donors.

Chabot Space & Science Center

The Chabot Space & Science Center will host an event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. where you'll be able to watch the NASA livestream on the center's 20-inch telescope, Rachel.

There will also be eclipse crafts for kids and visitors will be able to enjoy the event with some coffee or hot chocolate.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for kids/students/seniors, and $10 for members.

The Lawrence Hall of Science

The Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley will host an eclipse viewing party from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the day of the eclipse. It will offer safe solar viewing, solar activities, expert explanations of how solar eclipses happen, and a livestream of the total solar eclipse. You can also build your own paper sundial and a pinhole sun viewer to watch the eclipse safely.

The Robert Ferguson Observatory

The Robert Ferguson Observatory in Sonoma County will hold a free, open house-style event at the observatory on April 8 from 10 a.m. to noon. Stop by to see a livestream of the full total eclipse in their classroom and join in other activities. Solar eclipse glasses will be available for purchase. 

The student-run San Francisco State University Observatory is open to the public three nights per week. On the day of the eclipse, it will give out solar viewing equipment at two locations on campus "if skies are clear enough to see the sun."

How to protect your eyes during an eclipse

Sunglasses won’t cut it. Special eclipse glasses are crucial for safely observing the sun as the moon marches across the late morning and afternoon sky, covering more and more and then less and less of our star.

Although the Lick Observatory east of San Jose isn't hosting an official event, it's selling solar eclipse glasses at the gift shop, online, and in vending machines at the observatory. If you would like to purchase a pair, click here.

The only time it's safe to view the sun without eye protection is during the "totality" of a total solar eclipse, or the brief moments when the moon completely blocks the light of the sun, according to NASA.

Directly staring at the sun can result in blindness or disrupted vision. During the 2017 total solar eclipse, a young woman was diagnosed with solar retinopathy, retinal damage from exposure to solar radiation, in both eyes after viewing the eclipse with what doctors believed were eclipse glasses not held to the safety standard.

There is no treatment for solar retinopathy. It can improve or worsen, but it is a permanent condition.

To view the eclipse, wear certified eclipse glasses or use a hand-held solar viewer. Separately, you can observe the sun with a telescope, binoculars, or camera that has a special solar filter on the front, which acts the same way eclipse glasses would.

"You need certified ISO 12312-2 compliant solar eclipse glasses. There are plenty of safe sellers online," said Alex Lockwood, strategic content and integration lead for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters.

The lenses of solar eclipse glasses are made of black polymer, or resin infused with carbon particles, that blocks nearly all visible, infrared and ultraviolet light, according to The Planetary Society. Sunglasses don't block infrared radiation.

For safe manufacturers and resellers of eclipse glasses and filters for optical devices, including cameras and smartphones, check out the list curated by the American Astronomical Society.

Put on your eclipse glasses before looking up and remember to turn away from the sun before you remove them again. Always keep an eye on any children wearing eclipse glasses to make sure they don't remove them while looking at the sun.

ABC7, The Standard's media partner, and Associated Press contributed reporting.