Your Resource Guide to the Great American Eclipse
On Monday, August 21, 2017, millions of Americans will look up as the sky darkens, the temperatures drop, and the moon blocks out the sun during the Great American Eclipse. Depending upon where you live in the United States, you’ll see either the dramatic total eclipse or the still-impressive partial eclipse of the sun. And either one is a great opportunity for learning!
Because this rare solar eclipse will last only about two and a half minutes even in the best viewing locations, you’ll have to be prepared to help your kids make the most of it. Here are some tips and resources that can help.
Boost Your Eclipse Knowledge
Not quite sure how to explain the eclipse or the mechanics of celestial bodies to your kids? Not to worry. NASA has developed loads of kid-friendly educational materials to help. Check out some of our favorite videos on their How Eclipses Work page.
Where and When to View the Great American Eclipse
As the NASA videos explain, the total eclipse will be visible along a 70-mile-wide curving path across the United States from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, known as the path of totality. Even if you’re not lucky enough to live in or travel to destinations within that path on Monday, you’ll probably still be able to see a partial solar eclipse.
To find the precise time the total or partial eclipse will be viewable in your area, check out this interactive map from NASA. Note that you’ll need to convert Universal Time, which is equivalent to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), to your local time.
Now that you know when to look, you need to know how to view the eclipse safely.
Safe Viewing Tips
It’s not a myth: looking directly into the sun can permanently damage your eyes. As NASA strongly warns, “The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as ‘eclipse glasses’ or hand-held viewers.”
Fortunately, eclipse glasses are inexpensive (about $2) and are readily available online from some retailers. But don’t get taken in by counterfeit glasses that provide little, if any, protection. Instead, check the American Astronomical Society’s list of eclipse glasses and viewers that meet the applicable international safety standards.
As a safe alternative, there are several other methods for viewing the eclipse indirectly by projecting images of the eclipse on a blank surface. You can, for example, make a simple pinhole projector out of two pieces of cardboard or build a kid-friendly solar viewer for about $20. (Note that the latter requires purchasing lenses, so that choice may not be ideal if you don’t have sufficient time before the event.)
Most importantly, make sure you supervise young children properly during the event to avoid eye damage. You can learn more about NASA’s recommended safety procedures.
Join the Party: Find an Eclipse Event Near You
If you don’t have time to brush up on your astronomy, buy eclipse glasses, or build your own viewer, don’t stress. Local libraries are hosting hundreds of eclipse-related events across the country featuring guest experts, DIY viewer projects, and more. To find a participating library near you, check out this interactive map provided by the Space Science Institute (SSI).
If you can’t make it to a live event, you can watch a live stream of the eclipse and events taking place across the country on NASA TV’s Eclipse Across America.
Share the Experience
We’d love to know what you thought of the Great American Eclipse! Share your experiences in the comments!