UPDATED – Getting Ready for the Total Solar Eclipse – August 21st

The following resources will help you and your students get ready for the total solar eclipse coming in August.

Check out these links as you plan ahead for the total solar eclipse on August 21st.

Simulations & Animations (NEW RESOURCES)
NSTA Journal Articles
NSTA Press Books


The following articles by Dr. Maurice Snook appeared in GSTA’s eObservations newsletter in April 2016.

Darkness in the Afternoon: The Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

– Dr. Maurice Snook, Retired Scientist & Amateur Astronomer

Why is it so important for my school?

Barely two weeks into the 2017-18 school year, on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, one of the most spectacular natural phenomena will occur, a Total Solar Eclipse.  The last one in Georgia was in 1984 (not quite total).  This event will be so important for Georgia that plans for the eclipse need to be formulated by your school administration now.  The reason is that many students will be dismissed exactly when the eclipse will be at its maximum.  Around 2:38 PM on the afternoon of Aug. 21, 2017 the sun will be more than 90% covered by the moon!  It will appear like deep twilight and the students will wonder what is going on and will look up and see an extremely thin crescent sun high in the afternoon sky.  The brightness of the sun will be so reduced that students will look at it and not realize the danger of staring at the thin crescent sun.

Several options for schools are available, all with prior classroom discussions about what will occur: (1) make this a day off, an Eclipse Holiday; (2) dismiss the students at noon before the eclipse begins around 1:07 PM; (3) hold the students an extra 45 min until the eclipse has progressed far enough past maximum that the sun’s brightness will prevent them from being able to look at the sun (as is normal); (4) use this as a great learning experience about the wonders of natural phenomena that will not occur again until 2024.  At the very least, elementary school students should not be dismissed around 2:30-2:45 PM time period without prior instructions as to what is occurring (assuming the sun is visible).

All cities in Georgia will experience a very deep partial eclipse: Athens, 99% of the sun covered; Atlanta, 97%; Albany, 90%; Augusta, 99.4%; Columbus, 92%; Macon, 95%; Savannah, 97%; Valdosta 89%.  Photo 1 shows what a 90% partial eclipse will look like and most of North Georgia will see an even slimmer crescent.

A select number of Northeast Georgia cities will experience TOTALITY where the umbral shadow of the moon, only about 70 miles wide, will pass over them.  The umbral shadow, racing at over 1,000 mph, will first make landfall on the Oregon coast below Astoria, Oregon, and then crossing Idaho, Colorado, Nebraska, Missouri, southern Illinois, Tennessee, extreme northeast Georgia and southwestern North Carolina and South Carolina.  Cities in Northeast Georgia that will experience totality include: Blairsville, Hiawassee, Helen, Tellulah Falls, Toccoa, Clayton, Dillard, Lavonia and Hartwell.  Viewing totality is a most awe inspiring event.  It will become dark like that of a full moon for several minutes.  Even if cloudy it will seem like night has fallen.  Along the very southern edge of the umbral shadow of the moon and totality last less than a minute.  At Clayton or Dillard, nearer the center line, almost 2-1/2 minutes of totality can be observed.  Within the eclipse totality tract one will see the famous ‘Diamond Ring Effect’ and Bailey’s Beads (sunlight streaming through the mountains and valleys along the edge of the moon).  Brilliant crimson red solar prominences, shooting thousands of miles out from the sun’s edge, will appear as well as the million degree, pearly white streaming solar corona (see Photo 2).

Safety is important during the eclipse and students s


hould wear special viewing glasses. It is essential that teachers supporting the viewing of the eclipse determine the appropriate safety regulations.

Where to Begin 

The first place to look for information is the NASA website on the eclipse. This website has information about the eclipse, events, activities, and safety. It is a ‘must review’ for any teacher who is promoting the eclipse. Once you are familiar with the different areas in the website, determine what you will see your local area. You can do this by reviewing the maps in the NASA website, or by looking at the NASA website with Google in the address. This website contains an interactive map of the entire U.S. which can zoom to any place to view specific circumstances of the eclipse there.  The times given are Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  Subtract 4 hours from the GMT to get ESDT in 24 hour time.  Thus, 17:07 GMT = 13:07 ESDT = 1:07 PM.  Below are the times associated with the eclipse in Clayton, Georgia from the NASA website with Google:

  • Eclipse Begins:  1:07 PMTotality Begins: 2:35:49 PM (at Clayton, GA)
  • Totality Begins: 2:35:49 PM (at Clayton, GA)
  • Totality Ends:    2:38:23 PM (2 min 34 sec)
  • Eclipse Ends      4: 01 PM

Viewing the Eclipse Safely

– Dr. Maurice Snook, Retired Scientist & Amateur Astronomer

The Aug. 21, 2017 Total Solar Ecl


ipse can be viewed safely with just a few precautions.  Students should be instructed and allowed to experience this spectacular natural phenomena and not be locked in the classroom like some school districts did in 1984.  Watching the eclipse on television is not setting the proper example of learning about our natural world firsthand.  All of Georgia will see at least 90% of the sun covered at about 2:38 PM on Monday, Aug. 21 while those north of Macon will see from 95% to complete totality.  The eclipse will begin around 1:07 PM with maximum coverage of the sun at 2:38 PM.  The eclipse ends shortly after 4:00 PM.  Students must be provided safety instruction if they are being dismissed at this time.  If they are at home that day, parents need to know how to safely observe the eclipse.  Two methods can provide safe viewing of the partial phases if done properly: Projection Systems and Eclipse Glasses.

Projection Systems

There are two types of projection systems for the partial eclipse phases; pinhole ‘camera’ or pinhole mirror projection.  The straight projection method is a simple pinhole ‘camera’.  A ‘pinhole’ (no larger than a pencil lead in diameter) is punched into aluminum foil that is taped over a hole in the top of a shoe box.  A piece of white paper is placed at the bottom opposite the pinhole.  When aimed at the sun, a small, somewhat dim image of the sun will appear on the paper.  About 10-15 min after the eclipse begins, the projected sun image will show a definite notch where the moon is taking a ‘bite’ out of the sun.  As the eclipse progresses, the bite will enlarge and the sun will look like a fat crescent which becomes progressively thinner and thinner.  During the eclipse, crisscrossed tree leaves and branches form pinhole cameras and will project thousands of images of crescent suns on the ground and building walls.

A much larger image of the eclipsed sun can be made by projecting the sun’s image onto a piece of white paper with binoculars (see Picture 1).  One must NOT look through the binoculars at the sun!

The other projection system is a pinhole mirror projector.  A black piece of paper with a hole punched in it is placed over a mirror.  This will safely project an image of the eclipse sun onto a darkened classroom wall.  Students will detect the movement of the image across the wall in just a few minutes.  This dramatically demonstrates the earth’s rotation.  Below are the directions and pictures of students (Pictures 2-5) using the pinhole mirror projector.

Make a Pinhole Mirror Projector for the Solar Eclipse for $1.50


  • Compact mirror from Dollar Tree  $1.00
  • Play-Doh from Walmart                 $0.50
  • Black construction paper
  • Paper punch
  • Tape
  • Wooden block


  • Cut a circle from the black construction paper to fit the mirror.  Use the regular mirror only.  If the compact has a magnifying mirror you can easily bend the compact backwards and break off the magnifying mirror.
  • Punch a hole in the black paper circle with the paper punch.  Make the punch as far in as possible.
  • Tape the black circle on the mirror.  Blacken the rim of the compact mirror with a marker pen to reduce reflections.  You now have a Pinhole Mirror Projector.
  • Set your Pinhole Mirror Projector into some Play-Doh on a wooden block.
  • Place the Projector in sunlight and angle it to shine the reflected image of the sun onto a wall at least 20 feet away.  The darker the room, the better.
  • Observe how the image of the sun moves across the wall in just several minutes demonstrating the earth’s rotation.
  • During the solar eclipse the Pinhole Mirror Projector will allow safe viewing of the partial phases of the eclipse.

Solar Eclipse Glasses

Solar Eclipse Glasses are a great way to view the partial phases of the eclipse.  They can be purchased from a number of commercial companies among them are “Rainbow Sympathy” (10-24 $1.95 each; 1000+ $0.45 each) and “Thousand Oaks Optical” (25 for $35; 1,000 $470).  Bought in quantity they can be resold at public venues to foster eclipse safety and raise money.  Solar Eclipse Glasses can be used at any time to view the sun and sometimes see large sunspots (usually during sunspot maximum).

Student Projects

Students can access the NASA website and zoom in on the interactive eclipse map to see the circumstances of the eclipse for their location and for their friends or relatives who may not live here.  For example, what will people living in Washington, D.C. or San Francisco see?  Also, use a light bulb, small ball and globe to demonstrate how eclipses occur including solar and lunar and the differences between the two.  Older classes might explain the difference between a total and annular solar eclipse.  During the eclipse one can measure the temperature changes at regular intervals and plot them on a graph.  What effects did the eclipse have on animal life (birds, chickens, frogs, cows, you)?

Dr. Maurice E. Snook – Dr. Snook has been an enthusiastic amateur astronomer for over 60 years, 43 of those years in the Athens area.  During this time he has founded two astronomy clubs and served as president of three clubs; taught astronomy in Clarke County Talented and Gifted (TAG) program, (1980); organized numerous astronomy exhibits, talks and observing sessions at area schools, festivals, and state parks; lectured on solar eclipse safety at local schools (1984); published a weekly Halley’s Comet column for Athens-Banner Herald (1985-6) and assisted Sandy Creek Nature Center Park coordinate quarterly Star Watches every year since 1980.  Dr. Snook taught an astronomy course for the University of Georgia’s Continuing Educational Programs for over 5 years.  He has traveled the world to observe 5 total solar eclipses and 3 annular eclipses.  His solar eclipse photo, taken in Africa in 1973, appeared in the World Book Encyclopedia (1974-2009) and others have been included in several textbooks and periodicals.  He has been awarded a Presidential Volunteer Service Award and recently received the Georgia State Recreation & Parks State Volunteer of the Year Award for his work with Sandy Creek Nature Center and Park.  Dr. Snook earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Drexel University, Philadelphia in 1967 and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from The Pennsylvania State University (1971).  Although retired from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. National Poultry Research Center, Russell Research Center, Athens, he continues to collaborate at the Center and present his chemistry demonstrations to elementary schools throughout the Northeast Georgia area.



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