Free viewing begins at 11:30 a.m. on MSUM campus 

The Great American Eclipse marks the first day of classes at Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) Monday, Aug. 21. Most Americans with clear skies will be able to observe a total or partial solar eclipse. Fargo-Moorhead will experience a partial solar eclipse with just over 80 percent of the sun being blocked from view.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow that hits the Earth’s surface. Since it is never safe to look directly at the sun, MSUM’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is holding a viewing on campus. 

  • Monday, Aug. 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • G-3 parking lot, corner of 6th Ave. S. and 11th St. S., Moorhead
  • At the viewing, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will provide free eclipse glasses and use special telescopes with solar filters to allow people to safely view the eclipse.

“This is the most extreme solar eclipse to occur in Fargo-Moorhead since 1979 and the first total eclipse to hit the U.S. since then,” said Juan Cabanela, MSUM Professor of Physics and Astronomy. “The eclipse will start at 11:38 a.m. as the moon starts to pass between the sun and Fargo-Moorhead, with the maximum of 80.36 percent of the sun being blocked from view about half a minute before 1 p.m. The eclipse will end here at 2:20 p.m.”

“While we won’t see a total eclipse in Moorhead, the moon’s shadow is crossing the U.S. from coast to coast and people in all 50 states have the opportunity to see at least a partial solar eclipse, which is why astronomers are calling it the ‘Great American Eclipse,’” Cabanela said.

He and MSUM Planetarium Director Sara Schultz will travel to the path of totality to conduct experiments and to provide a stream of the total eclipse via Facebook Live on the Department of Physics and Astronomy Facebook page.

Eye safety is major concern

One of the concerns with any solar eclipse is eye safety.

“In almost every solar eclipse that passes over a populated area, there are reports of permanent eye injury from people who looked directly at the sun for longer than a glance,” Cabanela said. “The easiest way to directly view the solar eclipse is by using a pair of specially designed eclipse glasses that are specifically engineered for looking at the sun. Multiple pairs of sunglasses do not make it safe.”

In recent months, a significant number of eclipse glasses that do not provide adequate eye protection have been sold online. The American Astronomical Society website lists reputable vendors of solar filters, eclipse glasses and handheld viewers.

The MSUM Planetarium will have free certified eclipse glasses available at the Aug. 21 campus viewing. If you can’t attend the viewing and don’t have certified eclipse glasses, Cabanela suggests, “you can project an image of the sun onto the ground by using a pinhole punched in a sheet of paper or even the holes of a colander. It works surprisingly well, especially with groups of people.”

Prepare for the eclipse

To prepare for the eclipse, the MSUM Planetarium will show “Eclipse: The Sun Revealed” Sundays Aug. 13 and 20 at 2 p.m. in Bridges Hall 167. Certified eclipse glasses will be available for purchase for $1 after each show. For more information, go to