Friday, August 4, 2017

The Eclipse

So, you may have heard that there's a total solar eclipse happening for much of the continental U.S. this summer?

Here in Southern Illinois we've been hearing about nothing else for two years. We happen to live right by the point of longest duration for totality (when the sky is completely dark) and NASA and Ozzy Osbourne and Neil deGrasse Tyson are all coming here, for various reasons.

It has been hard to be upbeat about the eclipse when we have been hearing about it ad nauseum but Moff has reminded me that it may, in fact, be awe inspiring and that I shouldn't rule that possibility out. And he was so passionate talking about it that it brought tears to my eyes. My mother, my brother, my nephews, and some friends are all coming to my house to watch it. It would be nice if we all got to experience something life changing. And so I am going to open myself up to the possibility, and I hope it is amazing!!!

Given that this will be a great homeschool experience (even if you aren't doing a grade 6 Astronomy MLB), I am making notes on some websites that will be helpful. Here is what I have so far; chime in if you know of others.

A friend recommended this amazing TED talk; I do too!

Moff shared this great map to see the overall path over the U.S. (and it is really fun to put in the latitude and longitude of your home, or your town name and see exactly how the eclipse will pass over you, including the start and end time of the partial and the total).

My mom shared this NOAA link, with a countdown clock until totality begins (in Newport OR) and a chance to get your local weather forecast by zip code and double-check when the maximum eclipse will happen for you:

One thing I'd really like to participate in is the "Life Responds: Total Solar Eclipse 2017" citizen science opportunity. We do the Great Backyard Bird Count every year, and this is the same kind of thing. I also like projects for mapping the microbiome, which is a fascinating new field of research.

Two more websites, recommended by our local Science Center:

Eye safety during the eclipse is paramount. It is only safe to view totality with the naked eye. Be sure that you have a pair of certified eclipse glasses (purchased through a reputable vendor; the ones from Amazon have been found not to pass inspection)! If you do not, look up directions for making a pinhole camera. Or let nature make some for you.

A great solar eclipse art/craft project, which also can serve as a momento and a record of which ones you've seen and from which location on Earth! Simply make one each time you see a total solar eclipse:

Here's a fun activity which uses three people. One is the sun, one is the earth, one is the moon.

First, to help children understand the scale of how far the sun is from earth, the sun child walks away from the earth child, pacing out 93 steps. Each step represents a million miles.

Next, to help children understand the scale of how far the moon is from earth, the moon child moves 1/4 of a step away from the earth child.

The moon is 400* times smaller than the sun, but it is also 400* times closer than the sun, which is what makes them appear to be the same size and allows a total solar eclipse to be possible.


If you missed my instructions and photos on how to teach the phases of the moon (a lamp, one large foam ball painted to be the Earth, eight smaller foam balls painted to be the moon in various phases arranged around it), the two blog posts are below. You will need paint: we used bright blues and greens for the Earth, and black for the dark side of the Moon, and dull green for the Sun's shadow. We also found it easiest to set the 50/50 white/black balls in a bin of sand to stay upright while drying. The smooth foam balls with the white line around the diameter are easiest to paint, both in texture and in the fact that they are already divided 50/50.

Understanding the relative positions of the sun, moon, and earth for the moon phases is only one short step away from understanding their positions during a solar and/or a lunar eclipse.

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

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