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August 1, 2017

The Great American Eclipse: How to Safely View the Eclipse in Tampa Bay

By Tampa Bay Parenting

Learn how you can safely view the Great American Eclipse with tips from the experts at MOSI.

You hear it all the time. People say something’s “historic” or “once-in-a-lifetime” or “the first time ever.” Well, the Great American Eclipse coming up on  Aug. 21  actually lives up to all of that and more! For the first time since the United States was born in 1776, we’ll see a total solar eclipse that’s contained  entirely  within the USA. 


All the way from Oregon to South Carolina, people will experience moments where the sun is completely blocked by the moon. Here in Tampa Bay, more than 80 percent of the sun will be covered for a few moments, so the daylight will get substantially darker — and it will be awesome! The eclipse will begin in Tampa Bay at about  1:17 p.m., reach its darkest point at  2:49 p.m., and be all over at  4:14 p.m. 

Don’t Look Up! Here is an article explaining why. And yes, you can go blind if you look at the eclipsed sun.

Hold on — even with more than 80 percent of the sun covered, it’s still not safe to look directly at the sun! There are three safe ways (including one really fun family project!) to watch the eclipse: 

  1.   On TV and online.  You’ll be able to watch the eclipse live with video from locations all over America on cable channels and streaming online.  
  2. With the right glasses.  Normal sunglasses won’t cut it. You’ll need special super-dark lenses that you can order in advance online. Amazon has a 10-pack of glasses for about $13 or you can purchase eclipse glasses by American Paper Optics at Walmart or Lowe’s. (Update: Eclipse glasses are pretty much sold out everywhere in Tampa Bay at this point.)
  3.       Using a pinhole eclipse viewer.  Get instructions online and use items from around your house to create a hand-held gadget to track the eclipse. Read below to find out how! 
  4. Attend MOSI’s FREE Solar Eclipse Special Event. Even though MOSI will be closed for renovations, the museum is opening up to space enthusiasts of all ages for a special solar eclipse celebration from 1 pm-3:30 pm. The celebration will feature hands-on science activities, viewing of the eclipse with specialized telescopes and an astronomy presentation. 

How to Make a Pinhole Eclipse Viewer: 


Here are the basics for a great family project — making your own eclipse viewer!  

  • Cut a white piece of paper to the size of the bottom of the box and tape to the bottom before taping the top of the box shut.
  • Cut two openings in the top, removing about an inch of cardboard at each end of the top, next to the short edges. 
  • Cover one of the openings with aluminum foil and tape the foil in place. Put a piece of tape in the middle of the foil and, using a small nail, poke a hole through that tape and the foil underneath the tape. 
  • Now, stand with your back to sun and look into the remaining opening in the box top. The sun will shine through the pinhole and you’ll see its image projected on the inside of the box bottom. 
  • Experiment with pinhole sizes to make sure you can see a round disc — during the eclipse, you’ll see the moon’s outline blocking out our beloved sun! 

You can get more instructions and pictures online (search for “cereal box eclipse viewer”) or come visit MOSI on  Aug. 5, 6, 12 or 13 and build one with us during our two-weekend All-American Eclipse Festival that’s included with MOSI admission! 

Look at the ground! You can also view the eclipse by looking at shadows! 

As the moon passes by the sun, look down! Anything that creates a shadow that allows small amounts of light to pass through will create a similar effect as the pinhole viewer. Trees are excellent examples! Check out this photo from the University of Illinois.

Eclipse Shadows University of Illinois
Photo courtesy of University of Illinois.

You can create the same effect using your fingers! Stand with your back ot the sun and hold your hands up over your head and make a pound # sign with your fingers. The light passing through the holes of your fingers should create the same effect and reveal the shadow of the eclipse. Super cool!

Here’s a cool video of what to expect:

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