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Safe and Fun Solar Eclipse Viewing

This article appeared in the July 28, 2017 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Safe and Fun Solar Eclipse Viewing

A total solar eclipse in Novosibirsk, Russia in 2008 by Aaron Scott Willeke.

 

By Lisa Justice

Special to the Enterprise

 

An exceptional astronomical event is coming to North America. On Monday, August 21 for the first time in nearly a hundred years, a total solar eclipse will cross the United States from coast to coast, with fourteen states in the path of the eclipse’s totality.

 

While California is not one of the lucky fourteen, we in the Davis area will experience about 85% of the eclipse’s totality. While viewing a solar eclipse directly requires special protective equipment, it is very easy and safe to view a projection of the eclipse with a pinhole projector using simple materials you probably already have at home.

 

You will need two pieces of stiff white paper or paper plates and a pin or thumbtack. Use the pin or thumbtack to poke a small hole in the center of one of the pieces of paper or paper plates. You want a small hole with smooth sides.

 

Turn your back to the sun and hold the paper with the hole up high over your shoulder. Use your other paper as a screen. The sunlight will travel through the hole, projecting  an image of the sun onto the screen paper so you can watch the progression of the eclipse. The farther apart you hold your papers, the larger your projected image will be.

 

As the eclipse nears totality, you will see the projected image of the sun becoming a smaller and smaller sliver, like a crescent moon. Then, as the eclipse wanes, you will see the projected image of the sun becoming progressively larger and round.

 

You can also view a projection of the sun’s image by making a grid with your hands. Stand with you back to the sun and spread out the fingers on both hands. Layer one hand over the other to make a grid with your fingers.

 

Then look at the shadow of your hands on the ground. The empty spaces between your fingers have made little holes for the sunlight to travel through, creating a projected image of the sun just like the hole in the paper.

 

Also, take a look at the shadows created by any leafy trees. The spaces in between the leaves should make a similar kind of hole and projection.

 

Just be sure that you never look directly at the sun without proper viewing equipment. Sunglasses are not enough. The sun’s rays are very powerful and can damage the human eye.

 

The eclipse will begin at 9:02 a.m. here in Davis, peak at 10:16 a.m. and conclude at 11:38 a.m. Be safe and enjoy this rare and wonderful astronomical event.

For more information and images, go to NASA’s eclipse webpage:  https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2017/TSE2017.html

 

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Explorit’s coming events:

 

            •           Summer Science Camp registration is open now. Find all the details at www.explorit.org.

            •           Save the date of Sunday, August 27 for Explorit’s annual end of summer Science Blast celebration, a full day of fun for the whole community.

            •           Explorit’s Exploration Gallery is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free. Come check out the new Nano Mini Exhibition.

            •           Interested in helping out the community through board membership? Explorit is currently seeking individuals in the community to serve as members of our volunteer board. Please call or email for additional information on how to apply.

            •           Interested in membership? Think your Explorit membership may have lapsed?  Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 to check or sign up.

            •           Birthdays are fun with science at Explorit! Choose Super Birthday Party topics to make this a special event. Call Explorit at 530-756-0191 for more information or to book your party.

 

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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org, or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

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