On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will occur, and all those in North America will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse as the Moon’s shadow blocks our view of the Sun. The Moon’s shadow will fall directly over a 60-mile-wide area and sweep across the continental United States. Those sky watchers along this “zone of totality” will be treated to a total solar eclipse – a celestial spectacle that hasn’t been visible in the continental U.S. in nearly 40 years.
It is not safe to look directly at the Sun except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse. However, there are several ways to help children safely enjoy the eclipse. One way is by assembling their own pinhole projectors; directions on building your own pinhole projector are below. Solar viewing glasses can also be used.
NASA has assembled a variety of tools to for the eclipse. Go to eclipse2017.nasa.gov and to the STAR_Net Eclipse Resource Center for information and videos about eclipses, hands-on activities, downloadable files to print your own fact sheets and brochures, suggestions for planning and promoting an eclipse party, and more. Incorporate the Eclipse MEGACAST: Live Streaming Video on August 21, 2017 as a part of your promotions and events. If the weather happens to block the eclipse at your location, the streaming video of the total solar eclipse will allow everyone to participate in this celestial event.
Building a pinhole projector:
Materials: A long tube, aluminum foil, white cardstock or index card, scissors, tape, pushpin, measuring tape
Tape the foil over one end (the top) of the tube. Use the pin to make a small round pinhole.
Cut away ¼ of the circumference of other end (the bottom) of the tube. Cut the white cardstock into a circle the same width as the tube.
Tape the cardstock to the bottom end of the tube.
Point the top end with the foil towards the Sun, making the shadow of the tube as small as possible (so that the sunlight is going through the tube).
As you move the tube, you will see a projection of the Sun. The longer the tube, the bigger the image of the Sun will be.
Learn how to facilitate activities that will have your patrons asking, “Really!?!,” and exclaiming “That’s so cool!” with the archived webinar, “Crowd-Pleasing Hands-on Activities for Your Eclipse Programs,” recorded April 26, 2017. View Presentation Slides | View WebEx Recording
(Credit for all photos: LPI)
- Christine Shupla is the Education Lead at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, leading LPI’s professional development and materials development for librarians, teachers, camp programmers, and informal science educators.
- Keliann LaConte is the Professional Development Manager for the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute.
- Carolyn Ng is the Informal Education Lead for the NASA Heliophysics Education Consortium, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/ ADNET.
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