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10 Things to Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will darken the skies over Canada, the United States and Mexico. Teach your kids all about this rare phenomenon—and learn how to protect your family's eyes.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse

Photo: iStockphoto

On April 8, a solar eclipse—the first in seven years—will pass over North America, casting the earth below in darkness for a few minutes. It's an exciting time for lovers of outer space and most kids will be curious about it. Learn how to view the eclipse safely and pick up some fun facts to share with your little ones.

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—is rarer. That’s because the Earth is always spinning and the 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 Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

It looks different everywhere

The sky looks different depending on where you are on Earth and this solar eclipse will only be fully visible to people in specific areas. It will start over the Pacific coast of Mexico "entering the United States in Texas, and traveling through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine," according to Nasa. In Canada, it will be visible in Southern Ontario and will continue through Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

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You need eye protection to watch

Looking directly at the sun can 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, purchase them from a retailer that's approved by the American Astronomical Society. You can also wear welder’s glasses rated 14 or higher, or you can make your own pinhole projector.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

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 Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

It comes with a "double 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. This year there will be balls of light giving the appearance of some serious bling.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

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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 Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

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 watch the activities of birds and other animals in the neighbourhood.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

The temperature drops

Keep an eye on the thermometer. When the sun hides behind the moon, the temperature outside drops. Young scientists can get some early experience for future careers in space by tracking those changes and recording them in the GLOBE Observer app, which engages citizen scientists to collect eclipse data for study.

10 Things to Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

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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 Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

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 birthmarks to cleft lips. Different cultures offer different variations, with cautions for moms-to-be to avoid going outside or 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 Teach Your Kids About the Solar Eclipse iStockphoto

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