How Did Astronomy Clubs Prepare Their Communities for the 2017 Solar Eclipse?
A sampling of some of the types of events clubs held to prepare for the total solar eclipse of 2017. Photo credits for each image are found below!
Night Sky Network clubs helped prepare their local communities for the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 with a great deal of organization, hard work, and a passion for safe solar  outreach - and of course many, many solar eclipse viewing glasses! In order to help spread awareness of the eclipse- not just the fact that it was happening, but where to see it, how eclipses happen, and how to view it safely - volunteers from clubs across the country spent thousands of hours making sure their communities were well-informed and prepared to witness this incredible event. You can see so yourself with some of the events logged by members in the Night Sky Network  event system. Some event logs even include great pictures, a few of which we showcase below.
amateur astronomers preparing for a yardstick eclipse demonstration activity
A young volunteer helps lay out the "eclipse yardstick" activity. Photo Credit: Alice Few

The Tacoma Astronomical Society held many events to help train their volunteers and other members of their community for solar eclipse outreach. One such event was their Eclipse Volunteer Training Workshop, held on April 15, 2017. TAS members, teachers, and librarians were invited to a training session to help prepare their volunteers for the solar eclipse. Topics covered included the basics of what causes eclipses, how to view the eclipse safely, what to expect in the Tacoma, WA area eclipse-wise, and sharing tips and tricks for great outreach between members, including tools for eclipse demos.

photos of astronomy club members discussing space science

The Roanaoke Valley Astronomical Society assisted with eclipse education at the Solar Eclipse at the Science Museum of Western Virginia event on June 10. Raymond Bradley wrote that the club debuted their new moon phase game at the event! Members also, "used a golf ball and paper plate to demonstrate the angular sizes relationship between the sun and moon that gives rise to total eclipses. Created an eclipse model from a basketball, flashlight, and a stiff wire with a wooden ball attached to show the orbital plane of the moon and how it casts two different shadows on the Earth."
image of astronomers discussing how to prepare for a solar eclipse with a crowd at a first Friday event
Dr. Blake and Mr. Stone help a couple with their eclipse travel plans, using a printed totality path map of Kentucky and Tennessee. Photo Credit: Eric Geater

The Shoals Astronomy Club set up a special booth to help with eclipse education outreach at the Florence, AL "First Fridays" events leading up eclipse day. Their first event was a great success, and was even covered by the local paper - which you can read about here. Maps showing the path of totality were used to help discuss eclipse-related travel plans with the public! Multiple solar telescopes were set up to safely show the public views of the Sun. 

Their second event, on August 4, was even more packed with curious members of the public than the first, as Eric Geater writes:
"This second event was more heavily traveled than the previous, and we handed out far more eclipse shades. The event was shortened because of a sudden rainstorm, but the public were in a great mood prior to the rain. They enthusiastically asked questions about eye safety and driving conditions. We also had a unique opportunity to meet the public as an astronomy club, and hand out our business cards."
photo of a display of educational solar eclipse items
Photo Credit: David Buchla

The Nevada County Astronomers held an illustrated eclipse preview talk at the Madelyn Helling Library on August 1, 2017, which focused on the celestial mechanics of a solar eclipse, viewing safety, features to look for, and photography tips. John Griffin included the photo of the display above in the event log, as the actual event was too engaging and so no one took any photos - truly a sign of a succesful talk!

photo of a educational eclipse display at a local library
Posters and dioramas of eclipse information were popular and effective outreach tools in many parts of the country. The Island County Astronomical Society set up a Total Solar Eclipse 2017 display at the Coupeville Library in Coupeville, WA. Andy Nielsen writes that, "In the first three days of the exhibit 150 glasses were given out by library staff. During the eclipse library staff used glasses from the display so that patrons could safely view the eclipse (90% max on Whidbey Island)."
gathering of amateur astronomers
Photo Credit: Lance Ripplinger

The Star Valley Astronomers held the Eclipse Community Education Program at the Thayne Library in Thayne, Wyoming on August 1.  As you can see from the above photo, this was a well attended event! SVA Member Brandon Burnham's presentation about the solar eclipse included an eclipse demonstration done via a bright light and small white styrofoam balls, which showed how both solar and lunar eclipse occur. Brandon also spent a good deal of time time discussing safety when viewing the sun during the eclipse, which was the #1 topic for clubs doing outreach across the country in the days leading up to the eclipse!
people gathered for a meeting of amateur astronomers
Photo Credit; David Rossi

The South Jersey Astronomy Club had great attendance at the Eclipse Presentation  event of at the Avalon Public Library, as you can see in the panoramic photo above! Held just one week before the eclipse, on August 14, over 120 very excited visitors showed up to discuss the upcoming eclipse.
Amateur astronomer demonstrates how eclipses work using scale models of the earth, moon,  and a very large sun poster
Jerelyn Ramirez shows visitors how to create an eclipse of the meter-tall Sun image, scaled to use the Earth and Sun balls from the "Shadows and Silhouettes" activity. If you look down field you can see the 1-meter Sun banner, exactly 100 Meters away. The red flags are the  distance of the Earth's orbit at this scale, and visitors holding the 2.4mm Moon 11 inches from their eye could make an eclipse. Photo Credit: Paul Ramirez

The Kansas Astronomical Observers held their Solar Eclipse Preview Party on August 5. Jerelyn reported that despite possible storms, the event was a huge success:

"There was the threat of storms earlier in the day before the event, but it stopped before we headed out. Two local business owners came by to volunteer their help with the event. They helped as presenters which I thought was pretty cool. We started off with a pretty good crowd at first. We showed them the path of totality on the maps of NE, KS, and MO. What was really fun is we set up the Meter Sun across the field and had the visitors use the 2.4mm moon to simulate an eclipse. The other part of the presentation was the yardstick eclipse; many visitors enjoyed that visual aid. The Sun did peek out a few times to make that presentation work.

We had a small reflector telescope setup with the funnel projector and we could see one little sunspot on the Sun. I brought along the Sunspotter telescope to project the Sun; we could see the sunspot with that too. We shared with the visitors how to make a simple projector using a box or tube. Many visitors took photos to capture the how-to. We did share why eclipses don't happen all the time with my hula hoop demo. I saw several people nodding their heads when we explained that demo.

What was fun is two members from the club participated for the first time using NSN outreach toolkits and resources. Before our scheduled event was to start I went over with them what the activities were and how to use them. I got some WOW expressions from them. After I preformed it a couple times I asked them to try it out with the next visitors. They thought it was cool and were amazed how fun it was to use the activity. Not only did I have a positive response with the visitors, I had a positive response from some club members. It was a good event."

photo of astronomy club members wearing solar eclipse glasses inside
Photo Credit: Aaron Umpierre

The South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association's series of Solar Eclipse Safety & Education Classes was also a great success, as you can  see from the shielded faces of the excited and safely equipped SFAAA members above.

Nikole Bosch wrote of their August 5 event: We provided a weekly Solar Eclipse Safety and Observation workshop for all who are interested in observing the 2017 Solar Eclipse. I presented a power point presentation on what a solar eclipse is, how/ when it happens, the difference between lunar and solar and she demonstrated and informed everyone on safety! We received so many wonderful questions from parents about what is acceptable and what you should never do during a solar eclipse. All attendees received solar eclipse safety glasses, along with safety literature. We had roughly just over 400 attendees throughout the night.
a child looks through a solar telescope
Photo Credit: Matthew Junker, 'The Forecaster" and Ron Thompson

The Southern Maine Astronomers held their Pre-Eclipse Presentation on August 7, where they distributed solar glasses to eager future eclipse watchers and showed the sun to visitors using safe solar telescopes. Their visitors were also treated to lessons on how to create safe solar viewing projectors for their own use on the big day; a handy lesson, since for many folks the eclipse viewing glasses were in short supply on the big day!
photo of astronomers in a meeting wearing solar eclipse glasses
Photo Credit: Scott Stobbelaar

Marquette Astronomical Society's program on The Sun & The Solar Eclipse on August 9 brought together a large amount of members and guests who received safe solar viewers. Famous historical eclipses were discussed before diving into the causes of eclipses, the best ways to experience a total eclipse, where to see this eclipse, and of course, some important safe observing and photography tips.
amateur astronomer presents about a solar eclipse in a classroom setting
Photo Credit: Gene Hanson

Milwaukee Astronomical Society's Gene Hanson hosted the Total Solar Eclipse Presentation at the Sussex Library on August 10. This was a well attended presentation with a great Q&A session. Attendees were able to pick up eclipse viewers and postcards in addition to many great observing tips from Gene!
an astronomer helping a child view the sun safely through a telescope
Photo credit: Maria Lomeli Library Assistant III Monterey County Free Libraries

Members of the MIRA Astronomy Club held the very succesful King City Library Solar Eclipse Presentation on August 12.  MIRA Club President Tom Piller gave a brief presentation on the solar eclipse, and included an explanation of the Saros Cycle. Club member Mike Schimpf, provided the research and helped outline the presentation.  Afterwards, Tom set up his telescope (and protective solar filter) for some great public solar observing! Tom writes: "While the telescope was being set up the attendees were instructed on the use of the solar glasses provided by NSN and spent time looking at the sun. The two kids in the photo had never looked through a telescope before and spent several minutes each observing the sun. It brought a smile to my face as I almost had to pry them away. Future astronomers!"

There were hundreds more great eclipse preparation events held by clubs across the country; these are just a small sample of the events logged using the NSN system. Our next special article will feature select events that clubs held on the big day, August 21, 2017 - a day that NSN clubs helped make special for millions of folks across the USA as they were treated to the wonder of a solar eclipse!

Last Updated: March 22, 2018
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