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10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipse

There’s a solar eclipse Aug. 21, 2017, and it’s kind of a big deal, so share it with your family with the help of these fun facts.

By Jill Buchner

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipse

Photo: iStockphoto

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipse

It’s a rare sight

A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun, blocking out the sun and casting a shadow over the Earth. Partial eclipses happen a few times a year around the world, but a total eclipse—where the full sun is blocked out—only happens once every few decades in North America. That’s because the Earth is always spinning and moon is always orbiting and the two motions need to line up just right for the spectacle to occur. The full thing lasts two or three hours, though the sun is only fully covered for a couple of minutes.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

It looks different everywhere

The night sky looks different depending on where you are on Earth, so if you’re in Canada, or in the more northern or southern parts of the US, you won’t see a total solar eclipse, but a partial. A partial eclipse is when the sun is mostly, but not entirely, blocked by the moon—and it’s still pretty cool! Want to see the full thing? Head to the middle of the States—a path along Oregon to South Carolina will get the full show. But even Vancouver will get to see it 90 percent covered by 10 a.m. PST.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

You need eye protection to watch

Looking directly at the sun can actually burn your retinas, causing serious damage to your eyes, so everyone who plans to watch the solar eclipse needs to wear special eyewear—and sunglasses won’t cut it. You can buy eclipse glasses for the occasion. To ensure they’re legit, be sure to buy from a reputable dealer—they should be so dark you can’t see anything but the sun and bright lightbulbs through them. You can also wear welder’s glasses rated 14 or higher, or you can make your own pinhole projector.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

NASA has a live play-by-play

If you prefer to take in the eclipse from the safety of the indoors, NASA will be live-streaming the eclipse, and posting images taken from space crafts, high-altitude balloons and the International Space Station. This is your budding astronaut’s chance to get a look at a truly unique celestial event from space.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

It comes with a ”diamond ring”

When you watch a total solar eclipse, there’s a moment when you’ll see a shape referred to as a diamond ring. When the moon has just about covered the sun, there’s still a ring of brightness around the outside and ball of light in the uncovered corner of the sun, which creates the stunning “diamond” on the ring.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

It shows you a part of the sun you’ve never seen before

The outer aura of the sun is called a corona. It extends millions of kilometres into space and is way hotter than the surface of the sun, but you’ve probably never really noticed it in the bright of day. A solar eclipse offers a rare chance to take a look at this part of the sun (with your protective glasses of course!), because the sky goes dark and the corona becomes visible.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

It turns day to night

The solar eclipse creates a nighttime scene during the day, which can be confusing for animals. Some nocturnal animals get up while animals that are typically awake during the day may take a little rest. Have your kiddos keep an eye out for the activities of birds and other animals in the neighbourhood.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

The temperature drops

Keep an eye on the thermometer. When the sun hides behind the moon, the temperature outside drops. If you have a young scientist watching the eclipse with you, they can get some early experience for NASA by tracking those changes in atmospheric conditions and recording them in the GLOBE Observer app, which engages citizen scientists to collect eclipse data for study.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

There will be cool shadows on the ground

One of the most interesting sights during a solar eclipse isn’t in the sky at all. In the moments before and after the eclipse, “shadow bands,” which are thin, wavy strips of alternating light and shade, are projected onto the ground or structures below.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

It inspires all kinds of myths

There are all kinds of superstitions around solar eclipses—especially for pregnant women. Some say a solar eclipse can affect a growing baby, reporting everything from birth marks to cleft lips being caused by eclipses. Different cultures offer different variations, with cautions for moms-to-be to avoid going outside or protections from wearing certain colours. Of course, these are all myths. Pregnant women, like everyone else, can enjoy watching the eclipse with the rest of the family as long as they have proper eye protection.

10 things to tell your kids about the solar eclipseiStockphoto

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14 fun science experiments for kids

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