ROCKINGHAM — Leath Memorial Library will celebrate the celestial on Aug. 21, with a “Star Wars” movie, food and NASA-approved “glasses.”
On that day, the biggest star will be the sun, as the moon obscures its view from Earth. At midday, the sun gradually will blink out, as if someone had turned off the lights. More than two hours later, it will re-emerge.
“Since we have the most gorgeous lawn in the county,” librarian Deborah Knight said Friday, Leath Memorial will welcome those who have both lawn chairs and a yen for science. The library is at 412 E. Franklin St., Rockingham.
The celebration will begin at 10 a.m. with a showing of the film “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.”
Afterward — at about 12:15 or so — will follow a safety demonstration for those who wish to view the eclipse. The presentation will cover when to wear a pair of NASA-approved glasses and when to take them off safely. Each potential viewer will have to sign a waver absolving the library of liability for retinal damage caused by improper use of the glasses.
At 1 p.m., 1,000 pairs of glasses will become available, but only to those who have signed wavers.
“We want everybody to have a good time, and we want them to be safe,” Knight said.
The eclipse will begin a few minutes after 1. Totality — or the 90 percent North Carolinians will be able to see of it — will occur just before 3 p.m.
Last February, Knight sent NASA a grant request to support the eclipse program. She found out in June that the grant was coming through.
Since then, she has been preparing the Aug. 21 program, drawing in ice cream and hot dog vendors, business sponsors and providers of such things as bouncy houses. Representatives of the city’s police and fire departments will participate in the day’s activities, and a video game truck will be parked on site.
Lending a scientific air to the preparations is the collection of books displayed at the front of the Leath Library, and a full-page depiction of what happens during an eclipse, included in the library’s monthly newsletter.
As for whimsy … Knight has that covered, too.
“I have borrowed and begged ‘Star Wars’ memorabilia from a 5-year-old” who has collected everything from figurines to a light saber, she said.
The 65-mile-wide ribbon of perfect viewing areas for the eclipse will pass through the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, leaving North Carolinians with only a partial view of the eclipse.
But 90 percent is still a big deal, says astronomer and physics professor Stephen Danford of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, which has the closest observatory to Richmond County.
“You will definitely see the moon as it eats (the sun) up,” he said.
Knight doesn’t know how many people will attend the event but says 1,000 is doable. The library drew 500 to 800 people for each iteration of its summer reading program, she said.
The Aug. 21 event will be the last time till 2045 to view a total solar eclipse that stretches across the United States.
NASA also will live-stream the eclipse at www.nasa.gov/eclipselive.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.