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Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017

The "Great American Solar Eclipse" will be viewable (weather permitting) from sites in WCCUSD on Monday August 21, 2017 from 9:01am to 11:37am.  From our vantage point in California, the moon will cover about 80% of the sun at its maximum at 10:15am. 


August 21 Total Solar Eclipse Fact Sheet (downloadable 2-sided pdf from

fact sheet preview

What is a solar eclipse?

  • The moon will pass directly between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on the surface of Earth.
  • From Earth, we will see the moon pass in front of the sun.
  • The distance to the moon is about 1/400 the distance to the sun, and the diameter of the sun is about 400x the diameter of the moon, so in a total eclipse, the sun and moon appear exactly the same size.
  • Though the moon passes between the sun and Earth about once every month, its orbit is tilted, and it is usually a little above or below our view of the sun.

solar eclipse model



Some options for safe solar eclipse viewing:

  • special eclipse glasses (sunglasses are not enough!)

          eclipse glasses

  • card with small hole in it, a distance from screen

          basic pinhole projector

  • look on the ground at the shadowns from a colander, or tree leaves, or crossed fingers, etc.

          through tree leaves

          crossed fingers

Online Resources: 

Our view from the East Bay:

Eclipse simulation based on zip code (from

Path of August 21 eclipse across United States (from


"Eclipse: Who? What? Where? When? How?" (from

Eclipse Basics (from

The three shadows of an eclipse: Umbra, Penumbra, Antumbra  (from

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)  MS-ESS1: Earth's Place in the Universe


Lessons and Concepts 


  • MYSTERYscience lesson  Short videos with discussion questions.
  • Explore size and distance. The moon is much smaller than both Earth and the sun. How can it block out our view of the sun? Explore using a ping pong ball and basketball. Can you block your view of a basketball using only a ping pong ball?
  • Sketch and label a diagram of a solar eclipse.  How does it look from Earth? How might it look from outer space?
  • How might the animal and plant world respond to a solar eclipse?


  • Modeling:  Sketch and label a diagram of a solar eclipse.  How does it look from Earth?  How might Earth look from outer space?
  • Asking Questions:  The moon orbits Earth about once every month.  Why isn't there an eclipse every month?
  • Compare and contrast:  What is the difference between a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse?  Graphic Organizer
  • Ratios and Modeling:  Compare the ratios of size and distance for the moon and the sun. What relationship do you see? Can you create a model to demonstrate the relationship?
  • Social Sciences:  Explore beliefs, mythology, and superstitions about eclipses of other cultures, both in modern and historical times.
  • Physics:  How does a pinhole camera work?  How does light (and the image) travel through the pinhole and onto a screen?
  • Life:  How might the animal and plant world respond to a solar eclipse?