THEY came by car, caravan, truck and bike: tens of millions of skygazing Americans seeking two minutes of daytime darkness in the country’s first coast-to-coast total eclipse for almost a century.
With parties in campsites, small towns, rooftops and beaches along the 4200km path of totality*, the United States was briefly a nation of amateur* astronomers as they peered skyward in protective glasses to watch the moon black out the sun.
The last coast-to-coast eclipse was in 1918, long before the advent* of smartphones meant yesterday’s 91 minute solar show became the most photographed and documented event in human history.
Solar eclipses happen when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, blocking the Sun’s rays and plunging* part of the world into darkness during the day.
An eclipse of this magnitude* provides scientists with a unique ability to study the Earth, Sun, Moon and other stars and planets.
The historic event was live-streamed on Facebook by NASA and people from around the world tuned in.
Images were captured by 11 spacecraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons and eager astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
According to NASA, the chance of experiencing a total solar eclipse where you live only happens approximately once every 375 years.
This staggering statistic helps to explain the eclipse-viewing pandemonium* that overtook America in the lead-up the event.
People drove across state lines, braved masses of traffic and camped out for days to secure the best view.
In Salem, Oregon, a field was transformed into a campground in advance of an eclipse-watching party for 8500 eager viewers.
“It’s one of those ‘check the box’ kind of things in life,” said Hilary O’Hollaren.
Andrew Pattison also viewed the eclipse from Salem.
“It’s almost like time slows down. It’s only two minutes and you want to savour it, every little moment of it because it’s only two minutes long.” he said.
Nine-year-old Cami Smith watched in awe from Beverly Beach in Oregon.
“It’s really, really, really, really awesome,” she said.
“It was just as spectacular watching how quickly it got bright and everything came back to life again” said Cincinnati man Allen Winzler, who went to Kentucky with his wife and daughters for the event.
Those viewing the eclipse in real life were advised not to look directly at the sun, even when it was partially eclipsed because it was too bright and could damage their eyes.
Special solar filters like those on official eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers were the only suitable way to look at the sun. Looking through smartphone cameras was also a possibility, although NASA said the view wouldn’t be great.
NASA advised homemade filters and dark sunglasses were not sufficient.
The only time viewers were advised they could look at the sun without glasses was for the few minutes of the total eclipse in the path of totality.
Australians can look forward to upcoming eclipse events here, too.
A lunar eclipse will occur around midnight on January 31, 2018 and a second will be visible on July 27.
Visit NASA’s website for more information and videos about the eclipse: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/
path of totality: areas the shadow will travel directly over
amateur: not professional
plunging: going into something quickly
magnitude: size and force
pandemonium: chaotic actions
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Activity 1. Model it
Use three differently sized spheres (marbles, balls, balloons etc) to represent the Sun, the Earth and the Moon.
Take turns to demonstrate to a partner how the three bodies interact to create a solar eclipse.
Speak aloud to your partner as you move your spheres to explain what is occurring.
If a torch is available, you could use this to represent the Sun instead. This will show you how the moon blocks the Sun’s light from reaching Earth.
Find out the size of the Sun, Earth and Moon.
• How many times bigger than the Moon is Earth?
• How many times bigger than the Moon is the Earth?
• If the Sun is much bigger than the Moon, how is the Moon able to completely block Earth’s view of the Sun?
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Science
Activity 2. Comprehension
• Explain why so many people were keen to see the solar eclipse.
��� Is a solar eclipse dangerous? Why or why not?
• Write a comment that you might hear about the solar eclipse from somebody who knew it was going to happen.
• Write a comment that you might hear about the solar eclipse from somebody who was not aware that it was going to happen.
Find out and explain the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Science
(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)
Go through the article and highlight all the punctuation in green. Include all capital letters.
Tally up the punctuation into categories and see which piece or pieces of punctuation have been used the most.
Can you uplevel any of the basic punctuation being used to improve the piece?
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP
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