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August 21, 2017

Fun facts about the 2017 solar eclipse


  • August 21, 2017, will provide an out-of-this-world experience for millions of Americans when the moon passes between the sun and earth, climaxing with momentary darkness. This scientific event is called a solar eclipse.
  • The last solar eclipse took place on June 8, 1918. Watching the solar eclipse is a 5,000 year-old tradition. Here are a few important fun facts to keep in mind:
    • Never look at a partial eclipse with the naked eye–most parts of the country will experience a partial eclipse unless you are in the path of totality.
    • Each spot along the path of totality will experience the full solar eclipse for about two minutes.
    • Use specially-designed eclipse glasses with solar filters if you are in a part of the country where this is safe to do.
  • Earth is the only place in the social system where a moon can completely cover the sun. The sun is 4oo times larger than the moon and 400 times further from the Earth which makes the two appear to be the same size as the eclipse takes place.

Discussion questions:
  1. Essential question: Why do events like the solar eclipse catch the attention of so many people?
  2. What do you know about solar eclipses? Why are they so rare?
  3. Why should you not look into a solar eclipse with the naked eye?
  4. Is there room for wonder in a scientific event like the solar eclipse? Explain your answer.

Extension activities
  1. To find out more about the scientific elements of the solar eclipse, watch this NewsHour video Why this year’s total eclipse is a bright opportunity for science.
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