Former astronaut Chris Hadfield helps debunk (and confirm!) some common myths about space. Is there any sound in space? Does space smell like burnt steak? Is NASA working on warp speed?
On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights – a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s tenuous atmosphere – the corona – can be seen, will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk.
Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Path USA Map
This unique map from NASA shows the path of the moon’s umbral shadow – in which the sun will be completely obscured by the moon – during the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, as well as the fraction of the sun’s area covered by the moon outside the path of totality.
The lunar shadow enters the United States near Lincoln City, Oregon, at 9:05 a.m. PDT. Totality begins in the United States in Lincoln City, Oregon, at 10:16 a.m. PDT. The total eclipse will end in Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 p.m. EDT. The lunar shadow leaves the United States at 4:09 p.m. EDT. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout the United States.
NASA has created a website to provide a guide to this amazing event with activities, events, broadcasts, and links to other resources.
How to View the 2017 Solar Eclipse Safely
Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality (https://go.nasa.gov/2pC0lhe (link is external)).
- Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
- Always supervise children using solar filters.
- Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
- Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device.
- Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
- Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device. Note that solar filters must be attached to the front of any telescope, binoculars, camera lens, or other optics.
- If you are within the path of totality (https://go.nasa.gov/2pC0lhe (link is external)), remove your solar filter only when the moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to look at the remaining partial phases.
- Outside the path of totality, you must always use a safe solar filter to view the sun directly.
- If you normally wear eyeglasses, keep them on. Put your eclipse glasses on over them, or hold your handheld viewer in front of them.
Note: If your eclipse glasses or viewers are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, you may look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed Sun through them for as long as you wish. Furthermore, if the filters aren’t scratched, punctured, or torn, you may reuse them indefinitely. Some glasses/viewers are printed with warnings stating that you shouldn’t look through them for more than 3 minutes at a time and that you should discard them if they are more than 3 years old. Such warnings are outdated and do not apply to eclipse viewers compliant with the ISO 12312-2 standard adopted in 2015. To make sure you get (or got) your eclipse glasses/viewers from a supplier of ISO-compliant products, see the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers (link is external) page.
An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed sun is pinhole projection. For example, cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other, creating a waffle pattern. With your back to the sun, look at your hands’ shadow on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground, showing the sun as a crescent during the partial phases of the eclipse. Or just look at the shadow of a leafy tree during the partial eclipse; you’ll see the ground dappled with crescent Suns projected by the tiny spaces between the leaves.
A solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the view and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime. More information: eclipse.aas.org (link is external)
This document does not constitute medical advice. Readers with questions should contact a qualified eye-care professional.
New Site EclipseAmerica.Org Helps Elementary Teachers Get Ready for the Eclipse
San Francisco – August 3, 2017 — Mystery Science, creator of the fastest growing elementary science curriculum in America, and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG, GOOGL) today announced they are working together to help millions of children across the U.S. experience the Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017. Millions of solar eclipse glasses are being distributed to community libraries in the STAR Library Education Network to be given away free of charge, thanks in part to the support of Google. In addition, Google has provided Mystery Science with fifteen thousand eclipse glasses to be shipped directly to schools. Mystery Science is getting eclipse glasses into the hands of elementary teachers as well as providing exclusive educational videos and lesson plans, available for free download today at EclipseAmerica.org.
“Going to the moon, exploring the surface of mars, or seeing a total solar eclipse across the US for the first time in a century are amazing moments that can inspire a whole new generation of explorers and scientists,” said Calvin Johnson, Program Manager at Google for the Eclipse Megamovie project. “Our collaboration with Mystery Science ensures that educators have the resources needed to drive and encourage the curiosity of students and push our understanding of the universe to another level.”
In the last year, over 1 million children experienced Mystery Science in their elementary schools, leveraging its open-and-go curriculum.
“Those who have been fortunate enough to experience a total solar eclipse usually describe it as a ‘moment of awe’,” said Keith Schacht, co-founder and CEO of Mystery Science. “The next Marie Curie or Albert Einstein is somewhere out there right now. Experiencing this eclipse might be a singular event that inspires a lifetime of curiosity.”
Why You Should Care About the Solar Eclipse
- The August 21 event happening across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for many. The sky will go dark, the air will cool, crickets will chirp, and stars will become visible in daytime.
- The last time a total solar eclipse crossed the United States was in 1918, nearly one hundred years ago. In historical perspective for most young adults, it means most of their parents and grandparents have never seen a solar eclipse.
- In this modern era, where children spend so much time indoors and on digital devices, this is an opportunity to inspire them with one of the greatest wonders in the natural world. The solar eclipse provides a unique way to get them excited through a real world experience.
- The next total solar eclipse to cross the United States like this one won’t occur until the year 2045. So don’t miss the 2017 eclipse, as this one might be your only chance.
- It is extremely dangerous to ever look directly at the sun. This is why specially designed safety glasses are needed.
Unique Solar Eclipse Info on EclipseAmerica.org
- Explanation video made for kids. Mystery Science creates engaging content that children love. Too often, scientific explanations are heavy on dry vocabulary and technical details rather than engaging content.
- What time the eclipse will be in your city. Mystery Science knows that where you are physically on August 21 will dramatically alter your experience with the eclipse. So, they created a helpful Eclipse Time Checker where a person can type in their city and it will tell them when exactly to look.
- Everything a teacher needs. Mystery Science created an open-and-go eclipse lesson. Mystery Science is used in 10% of elementary schools in the U.S. and understands what teachers will need to help their students experience this moment of awe.
Google’s Solar Eclipse Branded Glasses on Par with NASA Standards
According to NASA, homemade filters or sunglasses of any kind are not safe for looking at the sun during this solar eclipse. These Google solar eclipse glasses meet NASA’s standards and have extremely dark lenses as they were made by Rainbow Symphony. The Sun or eclipse should not be viewed with an unfiltered camera, telescope or binocular as it will result in serious injury to your eyes.
Pricing and Availability
Interested teachers in the U.S. can go to the EclipseAmerica.org today to request their free solar eclipse glasses from a local library or to be shipped directly to their school. In addition, anyone can download and use the open-and-go eclipse lesson from Mystery Science for free. Here are the three, easy steps for teachers to get started:
- Request your free solar eclipse glasses.
- Check what time you will need to go outside to observe the eclipse. The exact time varies depending on your location: Eclipse Time Checker.
- Prepare to teach the solar eclipse lesson to your students.
About Mystery Science:
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.
The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone. This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.
This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.
The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated. Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated – scientists believe it could be an icy, “snowball-like” world, but further observations are needed.
“The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star,” said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. “It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds.”
In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star – classified as an ultra-cool dwarf – is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.
The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.
Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing – transits – of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer’s ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer’s “warm mission,” which began after the spacecraft’s coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations.
“This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations,” said Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. “Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”
Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.
In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets, and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are rocky in nature.
“The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets,” said Nikole Lewis, co-leader of the Hubble study and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also is studying the TRAPPIST-1 system, making measurements of the star’s minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets. Operating as the K2 mission, the spacecraft’s observations will allow astronomers to refine the properties of the known planets, as well as search for additional planets in the system. The K2 observations conclude in early March and will be made available
Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet’s atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets’ temperatures and surface pressures – key factors in assessing their habitability.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, at Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
Set foot on an alien world, on average three to four billion miles from the warmth of the sun.
On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft zipped past Pluto, scanning the dwarf planet in unprecedented detail. Using data from that flyby, The New York Times created a seven-minute virtual reality film. Fly over Pluto’s rugged surface, stand among the icy al-Idrisi Mountains and touch down in frost-rimmed Elliot Crater. The film was produced in collaboration with the Lunar and Planetary Institute and the Universities Space Research Association.