Summer Fun Activity: Total Solar Eclipse

The 2017 total solar eclipse, August 21, 2017, was billed as “The Great American Eclipse.” If you missed it, you can still learn quite a bit about solar eclipses!

Summer Fun Activities: 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
Click to enlarge.

The last time there was an eclipse in America was in 1991. But in 2017, the path of totality crossed right through America. Places that saw the total eclipse of the sun included:

  • Casper, Wyoming.
  • St. Joseph, Missouri.
  • Carbondale, Illinois.
  • Nashville, Tennessee.
  • Columbia, South Carolina.

However, all of those in the United States experienced at least a partial eclipse.

The Next Solar Eclipse in America

There will be an annular (ring-shaped) solar eclipse October 14, 2023. In this eclipse, the moon does not completely cover the sun.

The next total solar eclipse will occur April 4, 2024

Learn more about both events:

Eclipse America
Map and information on the 2023 and 2024 solar eclipses from the American Astronomical Society.

Safety First

Before viewing any eclipse you’ll want to explain the reasons why we do not look directly at the sun, especially during a solar eclipse. Eclipse glasses are certified according to the ISO 12312-2 international standard and can be purchased for safe viewing.

Eye Safety During a Total Solar Eclipse
Article at NASA that explains what to look for when purchasing Eclipse Eyeglasses along with tips for safe viewing.

Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters and Viewers
List of reliable sources for eclipse glasses.

What Happens During an Eclipse

Although the sun is significantly larger than our moon, in our sky they appear about the same size. During a total eclipse, from our view the moon moves in front of the sun and for a few minutes covers the sun, casting a shadow on earth, creating darkness, and decreasing the temperature. Learn more.

What You’ll See

Of course, exactly what you will see depends on where you are. However, here are a few things to look for:

2017 Total Solar Eclipse

The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

The nice thing about this particular total solar eclipse was that, if you lived in the United States, you could probably view it from the comfort of your backyard.

Visualizing the 2017 All-American Eclipse
Fascinating animation of the eclipse.

The 2017 Eclipse Across America Map
This NASA map shows you the path of totality along with the percentage eclipse for your viewing area and the time of the eclipse.

Additional Resources

What to See During an Eclipse
What to look for during each phase at the Exploratorium.

Observer’s Guide to Viewing the Eclipse
Eight-page download from the National Science Teachers Association.


Eclipse 2017
Excellent interactive from the Jet Propulsion Lab.

2017 Eclipse Across America
Great download from NASA with basic information and instructions for making two different types of eclipse viewers.

Eclipse Activity Guide
Also from NASA paired with the Girl Scouts, this 44-page download covers everything from magnets and compasses to sun s’mores!

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017 Map
Printable for notebook.

Eclipse Bookmark
Informative brochure/bookmark from NASA.

State Pinhole Projector
Download the pinhole projector for your state, have someone take a photo of your shadow while holding the projector, and the “resulting image will be a once in a lifetime picture of your shadow, the shadow of your selected state and a projected image of the partial eclipse marking your location!”

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