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The Shadow Approaches—Eclipse Ideas and Resources


Are you ready for the eclipse on Monday, August 21? Throughout North America, parts of South America, and even Europe and Africa, people will be able to experience this eclipse. Here is what some ASTC members are doing.

It’s not too late to join the celebration! You can get in on all the fun, amplify your visitors’ experience, or share activities through your member emails and social media (#ScienceCentersEclipse) with these ideas and resources from NASA and other organizations.

Safety First

The American Astronomical Society has a wonderfully comprehensive website devoted to the eclipse, with a section on eye safety that can help you prepare for a safe eclipse viewing experience.

Fun and Simple Activities

Construct a Pinhole Camera
You don’t need fancy glasses or equipment to watch one of the sky’s most awesome shows! With just a few simple supplies, you can make a pinhole camera that lets you watch a solar eclipse safely and easily. You can even make a pinhole camera using a cereal box or in the shape of your state.

Create an Observation Journal

What time did the sky begin to darken? How did animals react to the change? Visitors can jot down their thoughts and observations–even their predictions. Here is a sample to get you started. You might tailor your journal to your institution, like Saint Louis Science Center’s “eclipse passport” (click to download a copy). Or take it the next level and save the journals in an eclipse time capsule. When should you open it? Perhaps on April 8, 2024, when the next total solar eclipse crosses North America!

Make a Sun Funnel

Build a solar viewing projector that fits right over the eyepiece of your telescope. This simple and inexpensive device makes it easy for many people to observe the sun simultaneously—and safely!

Create an Eclipse Flipbook

Make drawings showing the progression of a total solar eclipse. Visitors can also hypothesize about the appearance of the corona and even share their drawing with NASA! Use the hashtag #Eclipse2017Corona and share images via NASA’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Decorate Eclipse Glasses

One way to enhance your viewing experience is to decorate your own eclipse glasses. Take and share pictures of your glasses on your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Use the #MyEclipseGlasses hashtag and tag NASA so they can repost!

Demonstrate Why an Eclipse Happens

This is a demo using simple materials to show differences between solar and lunar eclipses. Participants create 3D models of the Earth, moon, and sun. Three easy steps allow learners to engage, explore, and make meaning.

For more ideas, download the NASA Eclipse Activity Guide or NSTA guide.

Citizen Science Projects

The Earth is solar-powered. So what happens when the sun’s light is blocked, even temporarily? If you measure air and surface temperature, how cool is the eclipse? Help NASA answer these questions and others by collecting citizen-science data using the GLOBE Observer app during the eclipse.

The Eclipse Megamovie Project will gather images of the August 21 event from members of the general public. The photos will be stitched together to create an expanded and continuous view of the total eclipse as it crosses the United States. You can download the project’s app and snap a shot of the shadowed sun wherever you are—then share your photo with scientists who are building a massive data set of the sun’s travels.

Do animals know there is a solar eclipse? Many people have noticed changes in animal behavior as a solar eclipse is in progress–birds going to sleep, cats and dogs becoming confused, and more. The Life Responds app from the California Academy of Science in San Francisco allows your visitors to conduct research into behavioral changes in plants and animals during a total solar eclipse.

Ways to Watch

For four hours surrounding the eclipse, NASA will host Eclipse Live, providing unique broadcast coverage across multiple platforms, and allowing NASA to interact with the scientists and members of the public as everyone is watching the eclipse.

You can watch five live streams of the eclipse online courtesy of the Exploratorium in San Francisco. A free Exploratorium viewing app is also available for iOS and Android devices for you and your visitors to download.

Some available apps include

Sun Party!

No matter where you are located, you can have a great time by hosting an eclipse party!

Your eclipse extravaganza can be centered around actual visual observations on the day of the eclipse or it can rely on remote transmission of an eclipse image to your site. Not sure how to hold a party? This party planners’ kit from NASA includes everything you need to host a great event and join in the fun!

Tell Us What You Do . . .

You can add your event to ASTC’s list by sending a press release, website link, or event description to ASTC’s Todd Happer.

You can share your events and activities with ASTC after the event here, and we’ll include you in a list ASTC is compiling for NASA.

We’re also planning a post-eclipse webinar with ASTC members sharing what they did and what they learned. If you’re interested in participating, please write to me!

Wendy Hancock is ASTC’s Senior Program Manager, Professional Development