DeKalb prepares for a solar eclipse

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For a short period on Monday, Aug. 21, the midday sky will turn midnight dark as the entire North American continent experiences a solar eclipse. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “During those brief moments—when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face for about two minutes—day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. Birds will fly to their nighttime roosts. Nocturnal insects such as cicadas and crickets will buzz and chirp. This is truly one of nature’s most wondrous experiences.”

NASA states in a news release that the eclipse will be visible—weather permitting—across all of North America. Anyone within a 70-mile wide path that stretches through 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a total eclipse. The entire event will last two to three hours. 

It has been almost a century (February 1918) since a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire contiguous United States, although a 1979 solar eclipse was visible in Georgia and a partial solar eclipse was visble in the Atlanta area in May 1984. The 2017 eclipse path cuts across the northeast corner of Georgia, but there still will be plenty to see in the Atlanta area, according to Candace Ushery, assistant manager of the Salem-Panola DeKalb County Library branch. Salem-Panola is one of three libraries in DeKalb that is hosting special events designed to help local residents make the most of the eclipse experience. 

“I understand that a lot of people are booking rooms and reserving camp sites in north Georgia and Tennessee to experience the eclipse, but we’re close enough to get a worthwhile experience,” Ushery said.

The library through a grant from the National Science Teachers Association received eclipse viewing kits. Although the branch requested 2,000 kits, it received approximately 90. “The plan was to give kits away from Aug. 1 until the event. On Aug. 1 there was a line in front of the library when we opened,” Ushery recalled. “The last of our kits had been given out by 2 p.m. that day.”

She said more will be available Aug. 12 at a family event 10:30-11:30 a.m. at the library that will include a story time focused on solar eclipses and the sun generally. Participants also can make bracelets of beads that are white inside the building but turn bright colors in the sun. 

The viewing kits use a shoebox and include two rectangular patches—one of paper and the other of aluminum foil—along with instructions for making a pinhole projection box. There also is a pair of eclipse glasses, which provide safe viewing during the eclipse. “People can use these simple materials to make their own pinhole projection boxes, but only certified eclipse glasses are safe for looking at the sun, even if only a small portion of it is visible,” said Ushery, who noted that although the glasses in the kit look similar to movie 3-D glasses they are not the same and cannot be interchanged.

“It’s very important that people remember—and emphasize to their children—that homemade filters and regular sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. Serious and irreversible damage to the eyes can result from looking directly at the sun,” she added.

The use of such optical devices as cameras, telescopes and binoculars may intensify the problem, she warned. “These concentrate solar rays. Think about times as a child when you might have held a magnifying glass over a leaf or a piece of paper out in the sun and watched it shrivel or catch fire.” 

Solar eclipse preparation events also will be held at Hairston Crossing Library, Tuesday, Aug.15, 6:30-7:30 p.m., and Thursday, Aug. 17, 4-5 p.m. and at the Northlake-Barbara Loar Library Wednesday, Aug. 16, 7-8 p.m., Saturday Aug. 19, 2-3 p.m. and Monday, Aug. 21, 11 a.m.-noon. 

Those attending these programs will be instructed on safe viewing of the eclipse and viewing glasses will be distributed as long as supplies last. The Hairston Crossing events are open to the first 75 participants and the Northlake-Barbara Loar events are open to the first 100 participants. 

Salem-Panola Library is located at 5137 Salem Road, Lithonia, Hairston Crossing Library is at 4911 Redan Road, Stone Mountain, and Northlake-Barbara Loar Library, 3772 LaVista Road, Tucker.

DeKalb County School District has announced plans to extend its school day by one hour on Aug. 21 to provide safe viewing and instructional opportunities related to the eclipse. 

Although it’s important to view the eclipse safely, school and library officials and officials at NASA say the Aug. 21 event is a rare opportunity that shouldn’t be avoided. Alex Young, solar scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, commented in the federal agency’s release: “If you have an opportunity to see this—take it. You will not be disappointed.”


Pinhole projectorweb

How to make and use a pinhole projection box

To make

  • Use a shoe box or a long cylindrical triangular tube such as those mailing services use for shipping posters or prints. The longer the box, the bigger the image will be. To make a longer box, tape two shoe boxes together and remove the dividing wall.
  • Cut a hole in one end of the box and tape a piece of aluminum foil over the hole. 
  • With a pin, make a small hole in the middle of the aluminum foil.
  • Tape a piece of white paper inside the box on its opposite end. This is where the image will be.

Cut a large rectangular hole on the side of the box with the aluminum foil. This will be the viewing port. If the box has no cover, the open side can be the viewing port. 


To use


Stand with the sun behind you. Point the pinhole end of the box toward the sun as you look through the viewing port. You will see an image of the sun on the opposite end from the pinhole. The longer the box, the larger the image. 

Be careful not to look at the sun. The idea is to have the pinhole pointing at the sun and your eyes pointing at the image in the opposite direction.

This method doesn’t show much detail, but it is useful during a partial eclipse to see the “bite” the moon takes out of the sun. 


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