If you haven’t heard about what is known as the Great American Eclipse by now, it is not too late. This August 21, 2017 natural phenomena promises to be well worth “attending” or stepping outdoors for at least a few minutes approaching the moment when most of the Sun is covered by the Moon in your location. A partial solar eclipse can be seen by everyone in North America and parts of South America, Africa, and Europe so even if you are not within the path of totality you can still experience and view this solar eclipse. If you have children in your care at the time, they will always remember the day the teacher did not follow the Daily Routine but took them outside to experience a darkening of the sunlight in daytime. They will remember the break from the ordinary and your excitement if nothing else.
A note about safety:
Indirect viewing may be the best way for young children to view images of the Sun during the eclipse. See the simple instructions for pinhole viewing from the American Astronomical Society. When talking about the Sun, I always tell children that we don’t look right at it because it will damage our eyes. Some children may be tempted to test their ability to look at the Sun to show how they can withstand pain. I tell children that even if it doesn’t hurt right now, the light will damage some of the insides of our eyes, making it harder to see, especially when we are older, so DON’T DO IT. Some suggest having people face the ground to put on the glasses before looking up at the Sun, to have time to make sure the glasses are on securely. The NASA website says this about safe viewing with special glasses:
Eclipse viewing glasses and handheld solar viewers should meet all the following criteria:
• Have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard
• Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product
• Not be used if they are older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses
• Not use homemade filters or be substituted for with ordinary sunglasses — not even very dark ones — because they are not safe for looking directly at the Sun
Our partner the American Astronomical Society has verified that these five manufacturers are making eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only), Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.
Here are government agency and organizations’ links to information that will guide you in viewing safely and understanding the science at developmentally appropriate levels.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 2017 Solar Eclipse website answers the questions, Who? What? Where? When? and How? and provides information on safety, science information about the players (Sun, Moon, Earth), and resources including downloadable maps, fact sheets and posters.
Search the National Science Teachers Association’s store for “eclipse” to find new (and older) resources about eclipses, including a free article, “Total Eclipse” by Dennis Schatz and Andrew Fraknoi in the March 2017 issue of Science Teacher. Their book, When The Sun Goes Dark, features a family re-creating eclipses in their living room and exploring safe ways to view a solar eclipse. A free viewing guide is available as part of these authors’ book on solar science for middle school, Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses, and More.
American Astronomical Society has a useful glossary of eclipse related vocabulary among many other resources and information.
Astronomical Society of the Pacific also has information and resources.
GreatAmericanEclipse.com, published by Michael Zeiler and Polly White, is a fun site for eclipse maps and science facts.
I’m planning on making a special day of it with my family since I won’t be in school. Thanks to all the scientific community for making it possible for everyone to learn how to view the 2017 solar eclipse!