PacSci Perspectives


Total Solar Eclipse: What You Need To Know And How You Can View It

by | Jun 14, 2017

Solar Eclipse Glasses

On August 21, 2017, people across the United States will be able to witness a truly astounding celestial event: a total eclipse of the Sun. The path of the eclipse will traverse the country starting at the Oregon coast and extending to the coast of South Carolina. This will be the first total eclipse of the sun to occur over any of the contiguous United States since February 26, 1979.

A total solar eclipse is a unique phenomenon. For a moment the Sun will be entirely blocked by the Moon. During totality, night appears in the middle of the day. The sky slowly darkens and stars appear in the sky. Temperatures drop and animals react as though it were night. After a little over two minutes, the Sun will start to emerge from behind the Moon and daylight will slowly return. This is only possible because the Moon and the Sun appear the same size in the sky. In actuality, the Sun is over 400 times larger than the Moon, and the Moon is 400 times closer to the Earth. As the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, the Moon completely blocks the Sun. Since the Moon is slowly moving away from the Earth by about one inch per year, in approximately 1.5 billion years the Moon will no longer block the entirety of the Sun and there will be no more total eclipses. Enjoy it while you can!

Though Seattle is still very close to the path of totality, we will only experience a partial eclipse with over 95% of the Sun blocked by the Moon. It will be very impressive but remember: while any part of the Sun is visible it is very important to never look directly at the Sun or the eclipse without proper safety equipment. Homemade viewers using exposed film or other improvised materials are not safe and can result in permanent blindness. Only use equipment specifically designed for solar viewing.

How You Can Experience The Eclipse

Join us for Curiosity Days: Up in the Sky, August 12-13 to explore the science of everything under the sun, from weather and our atmosphere to flight and aviation. Pacific Science Center will be focusing on the sun with activities and presentations. We will have solar telescopes available for guests to safely observe the sun and we will have presentations about the history and science of eclipses.

On August 21 the day of the eclipse, we will open one hour early at 9 a.m. We will have telescopes and safe viewing glasses for our guests. The eclipse will begin at 9:08 a.m., the maximum will be at 10:20 a.m. and the eclipse will be over by 11:38 a.m.