Astronomers and others who like to study the things beyond earth will get a treat Sunday when the moon passes between the earth and sun. Richard Miles of the Science Center of Iowa says they have set up a special event to watch the eclipse.

“This is going to be visible for us here in Iowa starting at 7:20 p.m. and it will last about an hour and 10 minutes before the sun sets, at which point, we’ll be at 66-percent coverage. So, 66-percent of the sun will be covered by the moon and we will basically see a crescent sun,” Miles says. It’s an event that hasn’t happened in nearly two decades.

“This particular type of eclipse…hasn’t been visible from the mainland United States since 1994, so it’s been awhile since we’ve seen one here in the mainland United States,” Miles says. He says it’s the first eclipse of any kind this century that has been seen in the mainland U.S. Miles says some people in the U.S. will see more of the sun hidden by the eclipse.

He says Albuquerque, New Mexico for example will be in the “path of totality” and will see most of the sun blocked out so only a ring of the sun around the moon. Miles says you should not look directly at the sun and that’s why the Science Center has set up a viewing area near the courts building in Des Moines.

“The Science Center of Iowa and the Des Moines Astronomical Society will be out there with telescopes with special filters that will allow you to view the sun safely,” Miles says. “We’ll also have some telescopes that are specifically designed to look at the sun, so that will allow people to actually see this event safely without hurting their eyes.” Miles encourages everyone to find a way to safely view the eclipse. He says this type of eclipse will happen again in two years, and then there’s a longer wait.

“Five years from now is the next time we’ll have one that will be better, so it’s a fairly rare event. And you never know what the weather is going to be like, so you’d hate to miss it this time and then have it be cloudy again the next time,” Miles says. The Science Center viewing event is free.

The University of Northern Iowa will have solar-viewing equipment available to the public in the parking lot to the west of the UNI-Dome, near the athletic fields, starting at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. If you can’t get to one of these sites, Miles says you can check with your local astronomy club to find out information about viewing the eclipse in your area.