The anticipated “Great American Eclipse” is fast approaching but lately I have found myself ill prepared to answer questions about the epic event. What a great opportunity to teach kids about science and model being a life-long-learner at the same time.
I began some research since I didn’t pay much attention in science class. I do weird things at 4AM when I can’t sleep. I found a ton of great graphics and maps that I think would be interesting to kids and adults alike. Don’t pass over the links folks.
When will the next total solar eclipse happen?
On Monday August 21st 2017 a solar eclipse will be visible across the United States. The moon will cover the sun turning daylight into darkness. Lincoln City, Oregon is the first city to see this awesome event at 9:05AM with Totality (when the moon is directly in front of the sun) beginning at 10:16AM according to NASA. The eclipse happens in stages and at different times across the United States so pay attention.
What is a Solar Eclipse?
A Solar Eclipse is when the moon travels in-between the Earth and sun. The moon casts a shadow on parts of the earth as it blocks some of the suns light. There are 3 different types of solar eclipses. According to Spacekids.org the types are total eclipse, partial eclipse, and annular eclipse.
What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
In a total solar eclipse the moon covers the entire sun and only the corona is visible. The corona is made of a gas surrounding the sun and it is only visible to us during a total solar eclipse. If you are in the right place on earth and you just happen to be in the moons shadow it will become dark for a short time even though it is in the middle of the day.
Here is a great graphic from Timeanddate.com
Isn’t it dangerous to look directly at the sun?
Yes, looking at the sun is never a good idea. Even if you look at the sun and look away for a short while you can still damage your retina in your eye. Permanent damage and even blindness can occur. It is important to use special eclipse glasses that are certified for viewing an eclipse. Sunglasses do not fit the bill. Before using your special glasses make sure they are not damaged in any way. Please view this graphic for important information about proper eye protection.
Who will be Able to see the Eclipse on August 21st?
A partial eclipse can be seen across the United States from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean but to se the moon totally block the sun you must be in the path of “totality.” If you are in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming. Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Tennessee, Georgie, North Carolina or South Carolina you may be able to see the total eclipse. “The Path of Totality” is about 70 miles wide but many others can view a partial eclipse. Check out this infographic from Vox to find out what you will see and at what time. Just enter your zip code in the yellow box.
Here is an interactive map from NASA showing what you can see and at what time
Has this happened before?
Yes, the last total solar eclipse to cross the United States from the West coast to the East coast was on June 8, 1918. On Feb. 26, 1979, some states in the Northwest got to see another total solar eclipse. The next one is scheduled to pass over the United States on October 14, 2023.
Why doesn’t this happen more often?
The moon circles the earth about every 27 days but a solar eclipse does not happen once a month. The Sun, Earth and Moon need to be perfectly aligned for the moon to cast a shadow on earth but the moon tilts about 5 degrees as it orbits the earth. The eclipse cannot happen because “…Earth’s orbit around the sun is not in the same plane as the Moon’s orbit around the Earth.” Ask and Astronomer
Fun Random Facts
- During the eclipse birds will become confused and start chirping because it appears to be nighttime.
- If you are in totallity you may be able to see stars during the total eclipse.
- It will cool down during the event and shortly after because they sun’s rays will be totally blocked and it will take a bit for it to warm up the earth again
- Total Solar Eclipses cannot be seen from the North and South poles
- The word eclipse originated from Latin (Eclipsis), French and Greek (Eklleip) languages meaning fail to appear.
What did you think?
I didn’t know all that jazz about the moon, earth and sun. I hope my kids pay better attention in science than I did.