Tag: solar eclipse

The 2017 Solar Eclipse: Science for Kids

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.

What’s Happening in Astronomy This Month

November is packed with great opportunities to learn more about astronomy.

Event 1. Parts of northern Australia will be experiencing a solar eclipse, on November 14, 2012 (their time), which is roughly 5:00 p.m. EST November 13 in the U.S.

This video from NASA shows why astronomers are traveling to Australia for the eclipse. It is an unique opportunity to study the inner corona of the sun.

The excitement generated by an eclipse is often a good time to introduce age-specific information about the sun and our solar system.

From the comments on the first video, it seemed like there were a lot of misunderstanding about solar eclipses. I looked up this second video that is helpful in explaining why solar eclipses don’t happen all the time.

Event 2. Meteor showers

Two meteor showers have potential in November. The Northern Taurid shower peaks aound midnight on Monday November 12, 2012 and the annual Leonid meteor shower is due to appear on November 17, 2012.

Looking for a deeper involvement? NASA also has an extensive list of citizen science projects. Some, like the Rock Around the World, are definitely child-friendly.

A new children’s book:

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space (First Big Books) by Catherine D. Hughes and illustrated by David A. Aguilar

Solar Eclipse May 20, 2012 and Beyond

Just a quick reminder that people in certain regions of the western United States will likely be able to see an annular solar eclipse tomorrow May 20, 2012.

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. The photograph at the right is a solar eclipse for 2008 (Image from NASA).

Of course, you should never look at the sun directly. The Stanford Solar Center has information on how to make a “pinhole camera” or solar projector to view the sun indirectly.

If you miss this one, don’t worry. You can check NASA for future eclipses. There will be a total solar eclipse passing over the middle of the United States in 2017.

I’d love to hear from you if you get a chance to view it. Do you see any of the shadows they show in the video? We’ll probably be able to see a partial eclipse where we live.