'The Great American Eclipse': What You Should Know
Experts on how to protect your eyes, calm your fears and enjoy the day
On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, an eclipse of the sun will take place. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is calling the event, "The Great American Eclipse."
It's a pretty exciting day, but we've gotten questions about the eclipse and maybe you've been asked questions by your own kids about the big event coming up.
So to get answers, we went to the experts. We talked to Doug Roberts, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer for the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Michael Hunt, M.D., a pediatric eye specialist and research and education director of Ophthalmology at Cook Children's and Joy Crabtree, a licensed psychologist and clinic manager for Southlake and Northeast Hospital.
We start with some general questions for Doug Roberts:
1. What is an eclipse?
Doug Roberts: In astronomy, an eclipse is when one body gets in front of another.
2. What makes a solar eclipse so special and how rare is it?
Roberts: It is rare to see a total solar eclipse because the area on the earth where it can be viewed is so small and it lasts only a few minutes. The eclipses themselves happen fairly often, but most of the time they are only visible from the ocean and go unnoticed.
3. Can you see it in Texas?
Roberts: You can see a partial eclipse anywhere in Texas. If you live in the northern part of Texas, the eclipse will be more complete (more of the Sun's disk is covered by the Moon) than if viewed in south Texas. If you want to see totality you have to travel north to Nebraska, or Missouri.
4. What time will you see the eclipse?
Roberts: The maximum partial eclipse will be about 75 percent in north Texas. If you are on the line of totality, which extends from Oregon to South Carolina, you will see the Moon completely cover the Sun. There are many good charts, such as this one: http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/maps.htm
5. How can you see it safely?
Roberts: In Texas you can view the partial eclipse directly ONLY if you use approved eclipse glasses. They are available online and also at our Museum's gift store. You can also safely project the eclipse using a piece of paper with a hole punched in it. This is a nice site that describes this: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/how-make-pinhole-projector-view-solar-eclipse. You can also watch live streams of the eclipse on your computer as it is going on: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-live-stream.
6. Any tips on how parents can make the event special?
Roberts: Take a colander outside during the eclipse, maybe 1 p.m. or so, when it is near its peak. Hold the colander in such a way that the sunlight passes through the holes and is projected on some smooth surface. You should see a crescent of the Sun projected from all the holes.
7. Anything else kids should know?
Roberts If you can wait seven more years, the path of totality will go right through North Texas on April 8, 2024.
To Learn More:
Learn more about the "Great American Eclipse" by visiting the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History's site. View a schedule of events at the museum and explore solar eclipses on the site.
While an eclipse is a scientific wonder, it may also be scary for some kids. Here are some tips from Joy Crabtree to help your children enjoy the event:
"When talking to your kids about the eclipse, I think it’s important to prepare them and let them know what to expect in order to prevent them from being frightened or anxious. Explain that the sun, moon, and earth will line up, and the sky will go dark for a few minutes and it will feel a lot cooler outside. Prepare them by letting them know it will not last very long, and then it will soon be daylight again, and the temperature will return back to normal as well fairly quickly. If they know what is going to happen, and approximately when it will happen, they will not be startled by it, and are less likely to be scared. Additionally, when you give them a name for it, “the eclipse,” it provides them some sense of mastery over it as well, as though, “oh yeah, it’s the eclipse, I knew that was going to happen!”
Present it as a positive, unique event that happens only every hundred years or so and as something special that they get to experience in their lifetime.