Best ways to view the solar eclipse on Aug. 21

Testing solar glasses in advance of the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. (WJLA)

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - We are now less than three weeks away from a total solar eclipse that will track a narrow shadow across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. The whole country sees some effect, but not everyone will have the sun completely blocked out.

"The entire continent of North America is going to experience a partial solar eclipse. Here in Washington, D.C., we are going to experience about [an] 85 percent partial eclipse," says Genevieve de Messières, the Astronomy Education program manager at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

She says on Aug. 21, around D.C., the moon will block almost all of the sun, but almost is a big difference from totally.

"During that time, someone just walking around might not notice a whole lot of difference. If there's a bright blue sky like we have today, you might feel like it's a little bit hazy. As if there's a cloud over the sun, but there isn't," says de Messières.

She says don't despair; with the right tools and know-how, you can see some neat effects. Solar glasses are one of the best ways, but you don't even have to go that far.

Something you can easily do with stuff you already have around the house is make a pinhole projection viewer. Just cut a square in some paper and tape a piece of foil over it. Then poke a small hole, with a pin, in the foil.

What you're trying to do is focus the sun through that little hole you put on the paper underneath. This projects an image of the sun. Focus the circle and change the intensity based on how high you hold the paper. On Aug. 21, as the moon is crossing in front of the sun for us here on Earth, it's going to look like something took a bite out of that circle.

The same effect can be created just using your fingers. By making a grid with small holes by overlapping your fingers like a tic-tac-toe board, you create the same projection holes.

"Or you can use anything that has holes in it, like a straw hat, or a cracker, or a pasta strainer," says de Messières.

At the Air and Space Museum downtown and at the Udvar Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia there will be special tools and telescopes to enjoy the eclipse as well. They'll even help you build your own cardboard projection viewer. The Air and Space Museum will also have folks near the National Archives and at the National Zoo during the eclipse to show people what’s going on.

For now, they have free solar glasses to give away as well (while supplies last). The Arlington County Library’s central branch also has some solar glasses as of Wednesday.

Fairfax County Parks are holding several fun ways to observe the eclipse; find more here.

Downtown Fairfax is hosting Funday Monday to celebrate and view the eclipse as well.

Observatory Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland is also holding an event.

To find more, you can try simply searching “Eclipse 2017” and where you live.

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