U46 Prepares Teachers Students for Aug 21 Solar Eclipse

U-46 Prepares Teachers, Students for Aug. 21 Solar Eclipse
Planetarium Offers Aug. 12 Sky Shows

ELGINAs the solar eclipse approaches, School District

U-46 is offering some

down-to-earth advice on safely viewing the celestial event. 


The District’s historic Planetarium will offer two public sky shows on Saturday, Aug. 12; one from 2 to 3 p.m. and again from 4 to 5 p.m. on site at 312 Watch St., in Elgin. Planetarium Director and teacher Peggy Hernandez will present the shows, the final of five such public presentations focused on the eclipse.


“This is an excellent opportunity for community members to enjoy our wonderful planetarium in operation,” Hernandez said. “They will learn about our night sky and the upcoming eclipse.”


The show will address the Monday, Aug. 21st solar eclipse that will take place across the United States. Hernandez will offer a show about the night sky, answer questions, and provide tips to safely view the eclipse.


The Aug. 21 eclipse will be the first total eclipse visible in the U.S. in nearly 40 years. An eclipse occurs when the moon is aligned between the sun and the earth, and the moon blocks the sun’s rays.


The downstate Carbondale area will experience a total eclipse. In the Chicago area, the moon will block out about 87 percent of the sun’s rays, creating a twilight effect at the height of the eclipse, about 1:20 p.m. on Aug. 21.


“If the skies are clear, the street lights should go on, and we should be able to see Jupiter and Venus,” Hernandez said.


Certified eyewear, like the type available at the sky show, can be worn to look at the eclipse but filters come in all shapes and sizes, not only as eyewear. A pinhole viewer used to project the sun’s image onto another surface allows for safe viewing.A mirror to reflect the sunlight onto a wall or the ground also makes it safe to view the sun’s image. The reflected or projected sun is safe to look at, never the direct sun.    


Anyone interested in learning more, can watch a 17-minute Knovio tutorial (use 00000 for ID) or attend one of the two Aug. 12th shows.


The District has been offering professional development about the upcoming eclipse for teachers and administrators for several months. Teachers or administrators who want to take their students outside to experience the partial eclipse on the 21st must complete professional development, then distribute and collect permission waivers signed by a parent or guardian. The signed waivers confirm that parents are aware of a potential risk to anyone looking directly at the sun and that they agree to allow their child to participate in viewing activities under the guidance of a teacher who completed the professional development session.


Approximately 300 classrooms across the District are expected to participate in this teachable moment with a walk outside to safely view the sky and/or activity related to the eclipse.


The 1909 observatory was built by the Elgin Watch Company which used a telescope and other instrumentation to precisely determine the time and set their watches. The District’s planetarium opened in 1963, constructed as an addition to the observatory. Since then, more than one million students have been mesmerized by the majesty of the night sky during lessons at the planetarium.


Before the Aug. 12 shows, attendees can take a self-guided tour of the observatory and inspect the old telescope and instruments. For more information about the sky shows, please call the planetarium at 847-888-5324.