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Posts Tagged ‘Solar Eclipse’

An Educational Solar Eclipse Road Trip

On August 21, 2017, people across the United States witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event. Juliana Rorbeck, one of our ProQuest editors, traveled to Nashville, TN–the largest city along the path of totality–to observe the spectacular Great American Solar Eclipse firsthand.

Eclipse or Bust

When I first heard about a solar eclipse that would be visible from Oregon to South Carolina, I knew it would absolutely be worth seeing in person. After researching various cities along the path of totality–wherever the moon completely blocks out the sun–I chose Nashville. My fiancĂ© and I decided to make a road trip of it.

A Shortage of Glasses

Seven days before the eclipse, most stores were already sold out of solar eclipse glasses. Certain online retailers were even caught selling fake pairs of glasses. With all of the information swirling around about how staring at the sun, even briefly, can cause permanent eye damage, this caused a bit of panic, especially in South Florida. After calling up four stores and going to five locations, we ended up finding our solar eclipse glasses at a 7-Eleven. Talk about a close call. Even though glasses are not necessary to view totality, the before-and-after views are equally spectacular and incredible. We were ready.

Hitting the Road

On Friday, Aug. 18th we rented a car and drove from Boca Raton, FL, to St. Augustine. Over the course of the weekend, we explored Savannah, walked through small towns in Georgia such as Waynesboro, spent the night in Athens, and drove around the Blue Ridge Mountains. In Blairsville, GA, I found a painted rock commemorating the eclipse.

Painted rock found in Blairsville, GA. (Credit: Juliana Rorbeck)

Eclipse rock. (Credit: Juliana Rorbeck)

For entertainment, I brought along some eclipse reading material and we prepared ourselves to look for certain phenomena such as the Baily’s beads effect. This happens when sunlight streams through the valleys and craters of the moon and the last brilliant blast of light creates the illusion of a massive diamond ring hovering in the sky.

The night before the eclipse we took in the sights around downtown Nashville. People had poured in from all over the country to celebrate. Since we had booked a flight home that departed soon after the eclipse ended, we realized that the Nashville International Airport would make for a fine eclipse viewing location.

The Eclipse

ProQuest editor Juliana Rorbeck awaits the eclipse with family in Nashville on Aug. 21, 2017. (Credit: Juliana Rorbeck)

On Monday afternoon we congregated outside one of the terminals with dozens of fellow travelers. I spoke with people who had traveled from as far as Maine and Puerto Rico to watch the event.

Then the sunlight grew dim. A minute before totality, just before 1:27 in the afternoon, there was an amazing shimmering effect that could be seen all over the ground. Suddenly everything looked as though we were underwater. People gasped and pointed. The air grew less hot, even cool, the midday summer heat gone within seconds. We saw a great diamond–Baily’s beads–and then the thinnest silver ring. The sun had vanished behind the moon. Completely.

People gather in front of the Nashville International Airport to record the Great American Eclipse during totality on August 21, 2017. (Credit: Juliana Rorbeck)

People took out their phones to try to record the moment. A few folks captured it on their cameras, but most people simply looked around in amazement. Some even cried. The best way I can describe it is by saying it was a 360-degree sunset. Dusk everywhere you looked. It was strange enough to spend so much time intently focusing on the brightest point in the sky, only for it to be plunged into darkness.

The edge of the sun peeked out from behind the moon. Before I could wrap my mind around what I’d seen, it was over.

From the Boca Raton Office

While Boca Raton did not fall under the path of totality for this eclipse, ProQuest editors got to see a partial eclipse at 2:57 pm.

This is an unfiltered photo taken by a cell phone camera of the partial eclipse. Notice the lens reflection on the bottom right.

(Credit: Jennifer Oms)

Shadows from leaves created hundreds of crescent shapes along the ground.

(Credit: Kimberly Carpenter)

Editor Jennifer Oms used a paper plate with a pinhole in the middle and a piece of paper on the ground to see the partial eclipse.

ProQuest Editor Jennifer Oms created a pinhole viewer to observe the partial eclipse. (Credit: Jennifer Oms)

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The Total Solar Eclipse and Scientific Literacy

On August 21st, around 1:24 pm Central Standard Time, on the historical Orchard Dale Farm just outside the little hamlet of Cerulean, Kentucky, there will be a few curious humans wearing all manners of strange sunglasses staring up in the sky to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event: a total solar eclipse.

Path of Totality

Animated Video of the Path of Totality (NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)

Unlike the thousands of other eclipse worshipers in the nearby town of Hopkinsville, where there will be a well-planned festival with live music and parades, the few hardcore eclipse fanatics who are precise in their geographical coordinates will visit this farm because it is the spot where the eclipse’s greatest coverage, and one of the longest in duration, can be viewed. A total solar eclipse is where the earth crosses the shadow of the moon, completely obscuring the sun and cutting off all direct rays of sunlight to earth. Stars will appear, the earth will cool, and the moon’s black disk will exhibit a halo around its edge from the sun’s corona.

This spectacular eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the United States since 1991 and the first coast-to-coast in nearly 100 years. The path of totality will cast a shadow 70 miles wide and will first present itself on the Pacific coast of Oregon near Salem, and then proceed across the heart of the country before exiting the Atlantic coast near Charleston, South Carolina.

Events like solar eclipses are great teachable moments for educators to not only teach students about eclipses but also for students to become more science literate. Science literate students, whether or not they go on to science-related careers or not, become a more informed public, and a more informed public means better decision making.

One of the goals of science literacy (and by extension, the scientific method) is to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. For science educators teaching astronomy, science literacy is not not just about explaining the world around us, but also explaining and predicting the behavior of other objects in our solar system, such as the sun and our moon, and our relationship with those extraterrestrial bodies.

Today, astronomers can now easily predict such things as the precise times and places of various celestial events such as meteor showers, comet visitations, and of course solar eclipses; not only the precise time an eclipse will happen at a particular location, but also where and when the longest duration and greatest extent of an eclipse. eLibrary can assist science teachers toward the goal of helping students become science literate. It has a wealth of information on all things astronomical, including its Research Topic on solar and lunar eclipses. Be sure to check out these and other resources at the end of this blog.

So, where will you be viewing the solar eclipse? Can’t be there? Too far away from the path of totality? For those who can’t watch the eclipse live, you can visit NASA’s Total Eclipse website and view their Eclipse Live Stream page here.

Parisians, circa 1912, Viewing a Solar Eclipse

Parisians, circa 1912, Viewing a Solar Eclipse (Wikimedia Commons)

If you decide to view the total eclipse in person, there are a few safety precautions you should take before attempting it. First, if you plan on looking directly into the sun, be sure you have the proper solar filter sunglasses for viewing. Using anything else will risk severe eye damage or blindness. If you are within the path of totality you may remove your solar filtered sunglasses briefly when the moon completely covers the sun but be sure to replace your solar viewers soon after to watch the departing eclipse. An alternative method for viewing the eclipse is the pinhole projection. Simply punch a hole in an index card or a sheet of cardboard and project an image onto a nearby surface. Alternatively, hold out and cross your hands in front of you with your fingers of both hands slightly stretched open to project the sun onto the ground in front of you and watch the projection of the spaces between your fingers change as the eclipse takes place. For more indepth safety tips for viewing the solar eclipse, visit NASA’s eclipse page on viewing safety here.

Finally, for those of you who plan to view the eclipse along the path of totality: Happy sun gazing and here’s wishing for clear skies!

Here are some eLibrary Research Topics and other helpful articles that will assist you in viewing and understanding the upcoming solar eclipse: