I can remember being in elementary school on the day of a solar eclipse. My mom sent me off for the day with a kiss, my lunch box, and words I recall as: don’t look at the sun today or you’ll go blind. I’m pretty sure I walked directly home from the bus with my eyes to the ground and one hand shielding my brow like a visor. Safe in my bedroom I still had my sight!
On August 21, 2017 there will be an eclipse of the sun. I’m intrigued by stories of people planning road trips toward the “path of totality” and find myself drawn to the occurrence like a moth to a flame. Can I look this time, what do I tell my boys, and what is a path of totality?
Sometimes when the moon orbits Earth, it moves between the sun and Earth. When this happens, the moon blocks the light of the sun from reaching Earth. So rude! This causes an eclipse of the sun, or solar eclipse. During a solar eclipse, the moon casts a shadow which is only visible from a small area on Earth. The people who see the total eclipse are in the center of the moon’s shadow. The sky becomes very dark, as if it were night. For a total eclipse to take place, the sun, moon and Earth must be in a direct line.
The Path of Totality
Sounds like a great name for a board game or metal band but it is describes the course that will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina where observers will see the moon completely cover the sun for about two and a half minutes. In Rhode Island, we’re outside this path but will still be treated to a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk.
According to Dave Huestis at the Seagrave Memorial Observatory in Scituate, the sun will be 72% eclipsed from central Rhode Island, and will last between 1:27 p.m. until 4:00 p.m., with maximum eclipse occurring at 2:47 p.m. Read more at Read A Guide to the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 from the Seagrave Memorial Observatory in Scituate.
Hide or Seek
While I didn’t need to hide under my bed, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration better known as NASA, does repeated state to NEVER look directly at the sun: It can permanently damage your eyes! You must use proper safety equipment to look at any type of solar eclipse. The only acceptable glasses are safe viewers designed for looking at the sun and solar eclipses. Not old film, not sunglasses, and not all welder’s helmets.
Activities Around Rhode Island
Many venues have family-friendly celebrations planned, some even providing eclipse viewing glasses. Please visit links to verify and to note if events are free of charge, require admission, or ask for a donation fee.
- East Providence Public Library – An eclipse viewing party kicks-off at 1:30 p.m. and includes music, food trucks, and viewing glasses for the first 400 attendees.
- Frosty Drew Observatory, Charlestown – The observatory will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offer views of the eclipse through a telescope along with projections.
- Museum of Natural History, Providence – Activities all day with a special planetarium show at 1 p.m.
- Seagrave Memorial Observatory, Scituate – Safe solar viewing will be available through standard white-light solar-filtered telescopes as well as filters. Live-streamed webcasts from locations experiencing totality will be shown in the meeting hall. Solar eclipse viewers will also be available. In the event of cloudy weather, they will show live webcasts from total solar eclipse locations throughout the United States. For more information contact Jeff Padell at firstname.lastname@example.org
Solar Eclipse Coloring Project
Print one for each member of the family (or create your own) to color and fill-out together for a special keepsake of the 2017 Solar Eclipse!
Party with Local Flavor
So the solar eclipse is on a Monday and we’re not in the path of totality but it can still be a reason to have fun. Consider having kidos over after school. NASA has resources for hosting an eclipse party. Consider serving milk flavored with Eclipse coffee syrup, our official State drink (noting there must be caffeine so maybe older kids only).
NASA has created a comprehensive and easy-to-use website guide that provides all things eclipse: activities, events, broadcasts, and most importantly safety information.