2017, August 21: Safe Solar Eclipse Viewing

Viewing a solar eclipse is always a challenge and potentially can damage eyesight.  The gleaming orb of solar intensity is difficult to look at anytime.  Its intensity normally causes us to look away.  To ensure safe viewing, use indirect methods, such as merely sitting under a tree.  The overlapping branches, naturally produce tiny pinholes.  Under a tree on any typical day, you’ll see patterns of shade and spots of light.  These spots are images of the sun projected on the ground.  During an eclipse, images of the eclipsed sun appear on the ground.

In this image notice the dozens of eclipse images that are displayed on the wood deck.  On a windy day the images dance on the ground as the leaves respond to the changing air patterns.

Even in large group settings, such as schools, these indirect methods give everyone a continuous view of the slowly moving moon across the sun’s face.

In this view a student has made a hole in a paper plate.  When held in sunshine, the plate casts a shadow and a tiny hole in the plate allows the eclipse to project through into the shadow made by the plate.

The famous solar projector made with a box that has aluminum foil that is place over a hole in the box.  Multiple holes in the foil show a solar display.

Any object with multiple holes such as a straw hat (above) or colander will project a pattern of eclipses.

The solar image can be projected through a telescope or binoculars.  Never look through the optical device, even with filters.

In this image the telescope has a white card for projecting the solar image.

Here a projection through binoculars shows two images of the eclipse.

For schools that are in session on eclipse day, show students how to view the eclipse safely.  It would be an ideal time for students to build eclipse viewers, solar cookers and other solar projects so they can be outside to try out their work.

2017, August: Venus


Venus:  August 2, 2017


Venus: August 13, 2017

Venus is “that bright star” in the predawn sky.  During August 2017, Venus rises about 3 hours before sunrise and the beginning of twilight.

On the morning of August 19, the waning crescent moon appears about 4.5 degrees to the lower left of Venus.

As summer turns into fall, Venus passes Regulus, Mars, Spica and Jupiter.  The articles  linked below provide more details about these events.

For more information about sky watching events:

2017, August: Jupiter

Jupiter appears in the western sky during the early evening hours of August 2017.  It is heading toward its solar conjunction on October 26, 2017.  It reappears in the morning sky with an Epoch Conjunction with Venus on November 13, 2017.

During this appearance, Jupiter is preparing to pass Spica for a third time on September 5.  More about this in the links below.

On the evening of August 25, the crescent moon passes Jupiter and Spica.  The moon is 5.5 degrees to the upper left of Jupiter with Spica 4 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter.

For more information about sky watching events:


2017, August: Saturn

Saturn appears in the southern skies during the early evening hours of August 2017.  On August 2, the waxing crescent moon appears about 4 degrees to the upper right of Saturn with the reddish star Antares nearly 13 degrees to the lower right of Saturn.  Saturn is distinctly yellow-orange in color and slightly brighter than Antares.

Later in the month, the moon passes Saturn again.  On the evenings of August 29 and 30, the moon appears about 6 degrees from the planet.  On the first night the moon is the upper right of Saturn on the next evening it is to the upper left of Saturn.

For more information about sky watching events: