Science Channel to Broadcast Live Coverage of Lowell Eclipse Event


The Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience is an excellent opportunity to witness Lowell carrying out its dual mission of astronomical research and public education. During the eight-hour eclipse event on August 21 in Madras, Oregon, Lowell astronomers and educators will be on hand to teach, inspire, and share in the excitement of the total solar eclipse. Typical of Lowell’s long tradition of spreading scientific enlightenment, mass media will also play a vital role in reaching people across the globe.

Since the early days of educational science programming on television, the research of Lowell Observatory has been featured on various programs. In 1957, Walt Disney’s Disneyland series included the episode Mars and Beyond, which featured rocket scientist Werner von Braun discussing the problem of traveling to the red planet, as well as Lowell astronomer and Mars expert E.C. Slipher discussing his Mars research.

Two decades later, in 1980, astronomer/science popularizer Carl Sagan appeared at Lowell on Episode 5 of his Cosmos series, Blues for a Red Planet. In 1996, Bill Nye came to Lowell and filmed an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, “Pseudoscience”, and a year later Leonard Nimoy interviewed comet hunter Carolyn Shoemaker for a show. In addition to these, numerous other science programs have been filmed at Lowell for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and many other outlets. Discovery’s sister station, the Science Channel, will soon get in on the act as it will carry a live broadcast of Lowell’s eclipse event. This means that millions of people across the world will be able to listen to Lowell astronomers and educators and experience totality, all from the comfort of their homes as they watch on their computers and televisions.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Historian

A Pinhole Viewer by any Other Name

Colander Pinhole Viwer

As we discussed in the February 22 blog, solar eclipses may be indirectly viewed in a variety of ways. One of the simplest and least expensive (often coming at no cost) is to create a projected image of the Sun through a pinhole viewer. This may be accomplished by simply poking a small hole in a piece of cardboard, and then holding the cardboard such that the sunlight passes through the hole and falls onto a viewing surface (a white piece of paper, sidewalk, garage door, etc.) To focus the image, the observer simply moves the cardboard farther or nearer from the viewing surface.

Eclipse Pinhole Viewer
Jenny Oh/KQED

Observers can get pretty creative with such pinhole viewers, devising a pattern of holes that spells out a word or forms a familiar shape like a heart.


“One of the simplest and least expensive ways to view an eclipse is to create a projected image of the Sun through a pinhole viewer.”

Colander Pinhole Viewer
Frederic of Attic Self-Storage Blog

Another version of a pinhole viewer, one that needs no preparation, may be found in most kitchens. This is a colander, whose numerous holes are usually a perfect size to project the sun’s image.

While pinhole viewers are not useful during totality (you want to be looking at the eclipsed sun at this time anyway) they are perfect for easily seeing the partial phases of a solar eclipse.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Historian

How To Know If Your Solar Glasses Are Certified

The Lowell Solar Eclipse Experience Solar GlassesIn our February 22 blog, we reviewed various methods of safely viewing the Sun during its partial phases of eclipse. One of these is by use of solar glasses (also called solar viewing glasses) that are simple to use, safe, and inexpensive.

Solar glasses usually consist of cardboard frames (more expensive ones are made of sturdier plastic) that hold a Mylar or, more typically, black polymer material that filters out harmful solar rays.

The International Organization of Standardization (ISO)—a worldwide body that sets standards for commercial and industrial products and processes—addresses safe viewing of the Sun in the

ISO 12312-2 standard (this is often listed more specifically as ISO 12312-2:2015). For solar eclipse glasses to be certified under this benchmark, they must block ultraviolet and infrared light as well as reduce visible light to safe and comfortable levels.

“If solar eclipse glasses are not marked as meeting the ISO standard, you’re better off not using them.”

Glasses that meet this standard should be marked as such (something like “Meets the requirement for ISO 12312-2:2015”). Safety is paramount with solar viewing, so if solar glasses are not marked as such, you’re better off not using them.

Rainbow Symphony is one company that has certified its solar glasses meet the ISO standard. This California-based manufacturer of 3D, eclipse, diffraction, and other varieties of glasses has produced the solar eclipse glasses that all participants at the Lowell Observatory Solar Experience will receive.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Historian

Stargazing During the Eclipse

Viewing planets and stars is usually a nighttime activity, experienced after the Sun has set and the ensuing darkness allows for these jewels to be seen. But the disappearance of sunlight during a total solar eclipse can result in a similar, albeit more short-lived, opportunity for stargazing. During this year’s August 21 eclipse, for instance, four different planets and several familiar constellations will shine ever-so- briefly during totality.

Eclipse Stargazing 2017
The eclipse view from Central Oregon. Made with Stellarium

During this year’s August 21 eclipse, four different planets and several familiar constellations will shine ever-so- briefly during totality.

Planets and Constellations

The brightest object to show itself, Venus, will become visible about 15 to 30 minutes before totality sets in. It will lie 34º west (to the right) of the darkening Sun (1º is about the width of your pinkie finger held at arm’s length, and 10º is the width of your fist held in the same way; thus, Venus will be a little more than three fist widths to the west of the Sun). It will stay visible until 15 to 30 minutes after totality ends.

Fainter Jupiter, located 52º east (to the left) of the Sun, should also become visible during the latter stages of partial eclipse for some observers east of Idaho, but it will be very low on the eastern horizon. It won’t have risen yet as seen west of Idaho so won’t be visible in that area. Some 30 seconds before and after totality, two other planets will be visible, though they will be more difficult to distinguish because of their faintness. Reddish Mars will be only 8º to the west of the Sun, while even fainter Mercury will be 11º southwest of the Sun.

As for constellations, the Sun will be in Leo during totality. Its brightest star, Regulus, may or may not be easy to see, depending on the glare from the nearby Sun’s corona during totality. Other bright stars that should be easier to see include Sirius (in Canis Major) and Rigel (in Orion), both to the west of the Sun; Capella (in Auriga and northwest of the Sun); and Arcturus (in Bootes and to the northeast of the Sun). The Big Dipper will also shine brightly, due north of the Sun.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Public Information Officer and Historian