Rich­mond cen­ter in­vites so­lar eclipse watch­ers

Tele­scopes and glasses will be of­fered for safe view­ing, sci­ence ed­u­ca­tors will be on hand through­out the three-hour event

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By PAUL LAGASSE pla­gasse@somd­

When the par­tial so­lar eclipse dark­ens the skies over Mary­land on the af­ter­noon of Mon­day, Aug. 21, the staff of the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter will be busy mak­ing sure that vis­i­tors are able to ob­ser ve it safely.

The sci­ence cen­ter, which is ad­ja­cent to St. Charles High School on Piney Church Road in Wal­dorf, will be host­ing an eclipse view­ing party in its park­ing lot from 1 to 4 p.m. Sci­ence cen­ter staff will use tele­scopes to safely project the im­age of the sun onto the ground, and so­lar eclipse glasses will be avail­able for $1.

The pub­lic is in­vited to bring their own tele­scopes and eclipse glasses, as well as lawn chairs and wa­ter. Lo­cal ven­dors will be of­fer­ing re­fresh­ments.

The par­tial eclipse will be­gin around 1:18 p.m., reach its peak around 2:43 p.m. and end around 4:02 p.m. The eclipse is caused by the shadow of the moon mov­ing across the Earth’s sur­face as its or­bit car­ries it be­tween the Earth and the sun. The eclipse will ap­pear com­plete, or “to­tal,” for peo­ple who live di­rectly un­der the shadow’s track. Be­cause Mary­land lies north of

that track, the moon will ap­pear to be only partly block­ing the sun.

Pa­trick Row­ley, who op­er­ates the cen­ter’s gi­ant Sci­ence on a Sphere com­put­er­ized globe, said that at the peak of the eclipse the moon will ap­pear to block 80 to 90 per­cent of the sun. At that point, only the sun’s up­per left limb will be vis­i­ble. The sun’s corona — a bright glow­ing aura of su­per­heated gas that sur­rounds the sun — should also be vis­i­ble at the peak of the eclipse.

Look­ing di­rectly at the sun, even when it is mostly ob­scured by the moon, is very dan­ger­ous. That’s why the staff will use tele­scopes to project the sun’s im­age on the ground, rather than al­low­ing peo­ple to look di­rectly at it. Eclipse glasses use spe­cial fil­ters that block harm­ful rays while al­low­ing the wearer to look di­rectly at the sun.

“Peo­ple need to know that it’s not safe to look di­rectly at the eclipse,” Row­ley said. “You have to keep your glasses on at all time.”

The sci­ence cen­ter’s web­site,­ence­cen­ter/, has a page with in­for­ma­tion about the par­tial so­lar eclipse, in­clud­ing a link to a NASA web­page that has lots of in­for­ma­tion about so­lar eclipse safety and bow to view the eclipse safely.

Monique Wil­son, di­rec­tor of the Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter, said that lo­cal ven­dors will pro­vide re­fresh­ments in­clud­ing iced cof­fees, pas­tries and ice cream.

“We’ll have part of the school build­ing open for re­strooms and for peo­ple to come in and cool down if it ends up be­ing very warm out­side,” she said. “Our gift shop will also be open, of­fer­ing as­tro­naut ice cream, T-shirts and other fun things.”

One of the spe­cial treats will be a “so­lar eclipse spe­cial,” a spe­cial drink recipe con­cocted for the oc­ca­sion by Row­ley and pre­pared ex­clu­sively for at­ten­dees by Wee Bean Cof­fee Roast­ers.

Wil­son said that the eclipse view­ing party is also an op­por­tu­nity for the sci­ence cen­ter to raise aware­ness of its mis­sion and pro­grams. “Some peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that we are open to the pub­lic even though we are on a school cam­pus,” she said. “We of­fer evening and week­end pro­gram­ming, spe­cial events, sum­mer camps and day­time events for stu­dents dur­ing the school year.” The cen­ter hosts field trips from schools all over South­ern Mary­land and even Prince Ge­orge’s County.

The cen­ter also hosts a reg­u­lar hour-long plan­e­tar­ium show on the first Mon­day of each month at 7 p.m. Called “Our Sky Tonight,” the show pre­views the events in the night sky that will be hap­pen­ing that month. The plan­e­tar­ium show is spon­sored by Ed­u­ca­tional Sys­tems Fed­eral Credit Union, which al­lows the cen­ter to of­fer it free to the pub­lic.

“It’s a big draw,” Wil­son said, and usu­ally the plan­e­tar­ium is filled near to ca­pac­ity. “The reg­u­lars know to come early.”

Of course, like all ce­les­tial phe­nom­ena, a suc­cess­ful eclipse view­ing party needs good weather to suc­ceed.

“Every­body needs to wish for a clear day,” Wil­son said. “Oth­er­wise, we’ll just be hang­ing out in the park­ing lot all af­ter­noon drink­ing cof­fee.”


The James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter, ad­ja­cent to St. Charles High School on Piney Church Road in Wal­dorf, is host­ing a so­lar eclipse view­ing party on Au­gust 21, 2017, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Monique Wil­son, di­rec­tor of the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter, and Pa­trick Row­ley, Sci­ence on a Sphere fa­cil­i­ta­tor, will be on hand dur­ing the 2017 par­tial so­lar eclipse to help vis­i­tors ob­serve the event safely while hav­ing fun.

Stu­dent lab as­sis­tants Nick Dee­ble, left, Vard­han Pa­tel and Kayla Greene will be on hand dur­ing the 2017 par­tial so­lar eclipse to as­sist vis­i­tors with view­ing the event safely and to help en­sure that the event is both en­joy­able and ed­u­ca­tional.

So­lar eclipse glasses, which al­low wear­ers to look di­rectly at the sun safely dur­ing the eclipse, will be avail­able for $1.

The path of the 2017 par­tial so­lar eclipse is dis­played on the sci­ence cen­ter’s NOAA Sci­ence on a Sphere.

Tele­scopes like this one will be on hand to dis­play the so­lar eclipse safely.

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