Public Libraries Will Be Centers Of Eclipse Education For August 21 Solar Eclipse

The total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, stretches across the U.S. from coast to coast, providing scientists with a unique opportunity to study the eclipse from different vantage points. Image Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

June 21, 2017 – More than two million pairs of eclipse glasses are being distributed free through public libraries in the U.S. for the eclipse of the Sun taking place on August 21, 2017. About 4,800 organizations, including public library branches, bookmobiles, tribal libraries, library consortia, and state libraries, have received a package of free safe-viewing glasses, plus a 24-page information booklet on how best to do public outreach programs about the eclipse. The project is supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, with additional help from Google.

Dr. Robert Kirshner, Chief Program Officer, Science, at the Moore Foundation, said, “The Moore Foundation is pleased to help two million eyes enjoy and understand this astronomical spectacle with astronomical spectacles.”

The eclipse project was conceived by three astronomers, Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College), Dennis Schatz (Pacific Science Center), and Douglas Duncan (University of Colorado.) Together they brought the idea to Paul Dusenbery, Director of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL). NCIL manages the STAR Library Education Network (STAR_Net) (supported by NASA, NSF, and other organizations) to help libraries with STEM programming. NCIL manages the library eclipse program, whose website features an interactive map of participating libraries.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for libraries and their communities to work together to participate in a celestial event of this scope,” said project director Paul Dusenbery. “Many organizations like NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the American Astronomical Society, are working together to help people understand and view the eclipse safely, and we are delighted to be part of this important educational effort.”

The eclipse information booklet libraries received can be downloaded free by anyone. The 24-page booklet includes background information on eclipses, times when the eclipse is visible over different parts of the country, safe viewing techniques, suggestions for good outreach partners for libraries, and more.

Astronomers, astronomy hobbyists, museum educators, park rangers, and science teachers will be partnering with libraries in their own communities, helping to put on eclipse outreach events, but more people are needed. Since an estimated 500 million people in North America will be able to see the eclipse on August 21, everyone who knows about eclipse science and viewing is urged to become involved with a library in their community, helping to get the continent ready for the big event.