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In the Trenches - July 2017

Focusing on the Great American Eclipse: August 21, 2017

Volume 7, Number 3

In This Issue

Online Supplements

This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. Members can follow the "Read more" links below to access full versions of the articles online. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches, join NAGT

Eclipse Figure
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Moon’s shadow on Earth has two parts, the umbra and penumbra. (Not to scale.)[creative commons]
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What to Expect and How to Safely View the Total Eclipse of 2017

Leilani Arthurs, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A total solar eclipse is one of the most beautiful cosmic phenomena that we can see with our own eyes. Although a total eclipse happens somewhere in the world about every eighteen months, it is rare for one to happen close to home. So, mark your calendars! On August 21, 2017, the Moon will cast its shadow across the contiguous United States. Weather permitting, people along the path of the shadow will have the opportunity to see a partial eclipse of the Sun, and those who find themselves anywhere in the darkest part of the Moon's shadow will also have the opportunity to witness a total eclipse of the Sun. Read more...

Pinhole Projector Front page
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Pinhole projector compared to pinhole mirror projection. [Credit: Rico Tyler][creative commons]
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Another Option: Reflecting Pinhole Images

Rico Tyler, Western Kentucky University

Childhood memories are the only experience the majority of teachers today have observing solar eclipses. Often those memories involve classic pinhole imaging: using a piece of cardboard with a small pinhole to project a solar image onto a second cardboard screen. The system is simple, requiring few materials, but it has several limitations. Holding the pinhole in one hand and a screen in the other produces an image smaller than a penny. Larger images, better for group viewing and data collection, require the frustrating effort of increasing the pinhole-screen distance while keeping everything steady and aligned. A solar image 10 cm in diameter requires a pinhole to screen distance of over 10 meters! A long-known but little-used variation on pinhole projection offers a simple way to create large solar images perfect for classroom viewing and experimentation.Read more...

Wind River Eclipse Education Team
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The Wind River Eclipse Education Team (www.facebook.com/WREET) poses with its completed system at a July 2016 Workshop in Bozeman, Montana. Left to right: Andrew Coleman, Cheryl Coleman, and Phil Pierson, special education teachers for School District #25 in Riverton, Wyoming. [Photo: Paul Johnson][creative commons]
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Eclipse Ballooning Project Offers a Great Opportunity for Citizens to Connect with Science

Suzanne M. (Suki) Smaglik, Laramie County Community College

The last time the United States experienced a total solar eclipse in a coast-to-coast path was 1918. The tow-truck and light switch were just two-years old; the torque wrench and grocery bag were only recently invented; and the blender, pop-up toaster and adhesive bandage were still to come. And although weather balloons already existed (they were first launched in 1896), it was difficult to track them without the radio transmissions that didn't come along until the 1930s. Since the Great American Eclipse of 2017 will create such a wide path of totality across land, from Oregon to South Carolina, we will have the opportunity for ninety minutes of continuous data and image collection through experiments and activities from research institutions and citizen science projects, such as the Eclipse Ballooning Project. Read more...

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What Really Causes Tides

Neil F. Comins, University of Maine

Solar eclipses are notable for a variety of scientific and social reasons. By blocking the intense sunlight that we normally see, they provide astronomers with information from the much dimmer outer layers of the Sun's atmosphere, the chromosphere and corona. They also enable scientists to see stars when they are almost directly behind the Sun and therefore are normally invisible to us. This was important in 1919 when Arthur Eddington photographed a total solar eclipse and imaged stars whose light paths had been affected by the Sun, thereby providing the first confirmation of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Read more...

ONLINE EXTRA: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Angela Speck, University of Missouri

On August 21 there will be a total solar eclipse visible from a vast swath of the USA. Approximately 12 million people live within the path of totality (from which the TOTAL eclipse can be seen); the entire nation gets a significant partial eclipse that day. The last time the US had a total solar eclipse was in 1991, but that was only visible from Hawaii. The last time a total solar eclipse was visible from the continental US was 1979, and then only in the northwestern-most states. This will be the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire continent since 1918 and the first to be visible from ONLY the US since before the US became a country.Read more...

ONLINE EXTRA: Community Preparations at the Point of Greatest Eclipse

Brooke Jung, Solar Eclipse Marketing & Events

On August 21, 2017, Hopkinsville, Kentucky, will play host to a massive astronomical event — a total solar eclipse — and the planning details are unprecedented.Read more...

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Web Features

NAGT, its members, and its sponsored projects have produced a number of resources related to the topics addressed in this issue.

Solar System Animations »

This collection from the On the Cutting Edge module on Teaching with Visualizations showcases animations showing the phases of the moon, solar system formation, eclipses, and distance.

Teaching Activity: Phases of the Moon »

This teaching activity from the Starting Point: Teaching Introductory Geoscience website has students use a simple physical model of the Earth, sun, and moon to understand why the moon changes phases from the perspective of Earthly observers.

Teach the Earth: Planetary Science »

This page on Teach the Earth showcases particular collections related to Planetary Science as well as a link to a browse across the full Teach the Earth collection for materials related to Planetary Science.

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