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You've probably heard that there's going to be a solar eclipse which will be visible from much of the United States on August 21, 2017.  Beginning about 9:00am Pacific time off the coast of Oregon, the Moon will begin eclipsing the Sun and it will pass across the continental U.S. Depending on what state you live in, you may see a full or partial eclipse. NASA has information about where and when to observe the eclipse.

Definition of a Solar Eclipse:

A solar eclipse occurs when moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, causing a shadow to fall on the the surface of the Earth (blocking the Sun's light).

solar eclipse(Photograph of a solar eclipse for 2008 from NASA)

Solar Eclipse Science

Why are scientists so interested in a total eclipse? First of all it is an opportunity to study the area of plasma flowing around the sun called the solar corona. Normally it is difficult to see the solar corona because it is obscured by the bright light of the sun itself. During a total eclipse, however, that light is blocked and the corona is visible, which allows people to observe and study it.

It is also an opportunity to examine the effects of limiting solar radiation on a smaller scale than occurs when the sun goes down at night.

Why doesn't everyone in the path see a total eclipse? It turns out that when light hits an object, the shadow is not uniform.

The dark center shadow, called the umbra, gets narrower further from the object blocking the light. Only areas in the path of the Moon's umbral shadow will see a total eclipse.

The lighter penumbra shadow gets wider behind an object. Areas in the path of the Moon's penumbral shadow will see a partial eclipse.

Are you going to miss the 2017 eclipse? Don't worry, the next total solar eclipse will be April 8, 2024, passing over the eastern half of the U.S.

Eclipse-Related Science Activities

This summer take advantage of some of the great science activities relating to the solar eclipse. If it passing over your area, visit events hosted by local planetariums and astronomy groups. You can also participate in citizen science projects.

  1. The Sanford Solar Center has tips for observing the sun safely and suggested activities.
  2. California Academy of Sciences has a citizen science project observing behavior of animals during the eclipse (uses the iNaturalist App).
  3. The GLOBE Program has research looking at the impact of Sun's radiation on the Earth's surface. Citizen scientists record air and surface temperatures before, during, and after the eclipse (uses the GLOBE Observer App). Includes instructions for building a wind monitoring device.
  4. NASA has a list of related Citizen Science projects
  5. Take NASA's lunar challenge
  6. Share It Science has instructions for making a pinhole viewer
  7. Read a children's book about eclipses such as :

The beginning reader level book, Eclipses (Amazing Sights of the Sky) by Martha E. H. Rustad

These books feature short sentences and carefully-controlled vocabulary.

See a preview at Google Books.

For older kids, you might want to try this middle grade title, Go See The Eclipse: And Take a Kid with You by Chap Percival


Go See the Eclipse explains what an eclipse is, and gives specific advice on where to go, what to take, and how to prepare. Also contains personal anecdotes about the thrill of viewing a total eclipse.

Paperback: 148 pages
Publisher: Bee Ridge Press; 1a edition (April 24, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0986197521
ISBN-13: 978-0986197529

Interested in reading more? Check out our growing list of books about eclipses at Science Books for Kids.

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For STEM Friday and National Poetry Month we have a new children's book,  A Rocketful of Space Poems chosen by John Foster and illustrated by Korky Paul.


The collection includes poems from the likes of J. Patrick Lewis, Eric Finney, and Judith Nicholls. Many of the poems are not particularly serious, since they are about monsters, witches, magicians and aliens. They allow the reader to "fly into space, drive to the moon, meet an asteroid dog and a flurb blurp, and then play intergalactic Squibble-Ball." As you can see, the featured poems are highly imaginative but have a science-based foundation underneath. For example:

Space Riddle by John Foster

I used to be a Planet
But I'd a terribLe shock
When they annoUnced
That I was nothing buT
a large lump of rOck.

Korky Paul's illustrations are wacky and delightful. Each two-page spread has a frame around it filled with fun things to discover.

Pick up A Rocketful of Space Poems today and share a few with young readers for National Poetry Month. Let their imaginations soar!

Related activity ideas:

 

You might also want to try our related lists at Science Books for Kids:

Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Bks (February 15, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1847804861
ISBN-13: 978-1847804860

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

For Nonfiction Monday we have a new Middle Grade book, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever by Sneed B. Collard III.

It's a great title, but how much fun is the book, really? Let's take a look.

Starting out, it is written in an animated conversational tone, with a touch of silliness thrown in. Here's a sample:

"The thorax, or middle part, of an insect is its transportation center. Insect manufacturers always attach an insect's legs to its thorax. If you see an insect with legs on its head, don't buy it!"

The information is handled in a less-than-serious way, as well. For example, there is a table in the introduction comparing the known number of species of different animal groups. Kids might not look too closely until they realize one of the categories is comic-book superheroes (there are more than 1,000 different comic-book superheroes according to the author.) The conclusion that the number of insect species far exceeds the number of species in other animal groups comes through loud an clear, regardless of any humor. If adding superheroes to the mix makes a reader pay more attention, then good for Mr. Collard.

Some parts appear to be serious. The illustrations are color photographs, most taken by the author. On the other hand, on page ten is an illustration of an insect's anatomy hand-drawn by the author's son. The back matter includes the standard glossary and index, but no list of books or websites to learn more. Instead the author encourages kids to go outside and observe insects in the real world.

All in all, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever is a must-have title for budding entomologists and kids interested in biology. It will also appeal to kids who enjoy their nonfiction on the lighter side, making it an excellent choice for reluctant readers. Check out a copy today.

Related:

Age Range: 9 - 12 years
Publisher: Charlesbridge (March 21, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1580896421
ISBN-13: 978-1580896429

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title or cover links and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.