The Solar Eclipse: What to Know for Kids

On Monday, August 21, 2017,  a total solar eclipse will pass over the United States. Unfortunately, from California, we will only be able to witness a partial eclipse, but the sight will still be incredible to witness and an opportunity for your kids to learn more about science!

What’s a Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit around Earth brings it directly between us and the sun. The moon blocks the sun’s light and casts a shadow on Earth, creating the eclipse. There are three types of solar eclipses: total, partial, and annular.

Total EclipsesSolar Eclipse Graphic

Total eclipses occur when the moon completely blocks out the sun. It can only be seen by those directly in the center of the moon’s shadow.

Partial Eclipses

Partial eclipses occur when the moon blocks only part of the sun. Because California will not be in the center of the moon’s shadow on August 21, we will only see a partial eclipse.

Annular Eclipses

If the moon blocks the sun directly while its orbit is at its farthest from Earth, an annular eclipse occurs. Because the moon is farther away, it appears smaller, not blocking out all of the sun’s rays, leaving a ring of sunlight creeping through around the moon during the eclipse.

Why It’s Important

While most of us in California won’t see the total solar eclipse shown in the video above, learning about the event, and possibly viewing the partial eclipse, can still be a huge benefit to your child’s view of science. It’s an opportunity for them to learn about a scientific experience as it occurs, compared to learning about eclipses that have already happened or are yet to. The event can spark an interest in science and space, and gives you a chance to teach your child more about our solar system and other amazing scientific phenomena.

Where to View and How to View Safely

Unless you’re up for a road trip to reach a location where the total eclipse will be in sight, the partial eclipse will be visible locally (weather permitting) from about 9:06 am to 11:45 am PST. In Anaheim, the eclipse will peak at 10:21 am with 61.4% of the sun covered by the moon. Viewers will want to find an area not too obstructed by buildings, where they’ll have a clear view of the sky. Since the event will occur during work and school hours, it may be impossible for your child and yourself to view, but you can encourage your child’s teacher to talk about the event and you can also discuss it later at home.

For those who will be able to view the eclipse, it must be viewed with the utmost safety! Since only part of the sun will be eclipsed, it will be unsafe to view without eclipse glasses or by pinhole projection. Follow these instructions to make a pinhole projector for the event.

Activities for Kids

Whether or not your family is able to witness the partial eclipse, you can still use the occasion to teach your child more about science and space. Follow our STEM Exploration board on Pinterest for solar eclipse activities and facts that will help your child understand the phenomenon and the science behind it.

Sources: AugustEclipse.comCBS News, ForbesNASA,, Time, and Vox

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