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
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, www.ccboe.com/sciencecenter/, 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.