The solar eclipse of April 8, 2024, is coming to your town! This will be a spectacle like no other, with the path of totality stretching across North America from Sinaloa, Mexico to Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. According to NASA, this year’s eclipse has a 57% wider band than the 2017 solar eclipse, increasing visibility to more than 30 million people residing within the path of totality. Not to mention the hundreds of millions of people off the path, many of whom may travel to see the total eclipse.

North America map shows the tracks of the 2017 and 2024 eclipses
This map shows the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse, crossing from Oregon to South Carolina, and the 2024 total solar eclipse, crossing from Mexico into Texas, up to Maine, and exiting over Canada.
Ernest Wright / NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

But the best part of this eclipse? Sharing the joy and amazement with others!

Party Like It’s April 8, 2024!

Sidewalk astronomer John Dobson once said, “The importance of a telescope is not on how big it is, it's not on how well made it is — it's how many people, less fortunate than you, got to look through it.” As an amateur astronomer and informal educator who loves nothing more than sharing the view with others, I can share some ways you can reach the public, whether you are traveling or staying put, with and without a telescope.

Viewing an eclipse with special glasses
Courtesy Mark Margolis / Rainbow Symphony

Spread The Word

Are you something of a science communicator yourself? Word of mouth can be an effective tool in outreach.

If you have social media platforms, you can share resources on where to find reputable solar viewers, safe viewing practices, or talk about the science behind why eclipses don’t happen every month, for example. Using your creativity, you can be both funny and informative.

Watch with Friends

On or off the path, you can arrange or attend an eclipse party. Along with solar viewing, you can have eclipse-themed snacks and beverages, and party games — pin the Moon on the Sun, anyone? There’s no wrong answer.

Even in the case of bad weather, you could have an indoor watch party and tune in on the Exploratorium and NASA broadcast feeds.

No plans? No problem! You can find your local astronomy club through NASA’s Night Sky Network and join them for eclipse viewing. Additionally, you can contact your local NASA Solar System Ambassador to see if they are hosting an event or know of events in your area.

Get Creative

Let your artistic side show. By sharing stories from other cultures, writing songs, or painting pictures, there are multiple ways to commemorate an eclipse — use your preferred medium to make it special.

Another great activity can be building and decorating a pinhole projector, in addition to using solar viewers or a solar-capable telescope for viewing. If you don’t have any boxes available, colanders, strainers, perforated spoons, and lots of other objects can be used to cast pinhole shadows during an eclipse.

Pinhole projection via shoebox
You can use a shoebox to create a simple pinhole projector. Tape a piece of paper on the inside of one end, then cut two holes in the other end, one for looking into and one for creating the actual pinhole. As sunlight streams through the pinhole, it will create an image of the eclipsed Sun on the paper. (Note that you'll want to put the lid on the box to ensure it's dark enough to clearly see the Sun's image.)
Leah Tiscione / Sky & Telescope

Other activities and resources are available through the American Astronomical Society’s eclipse website.

Partner Up: If you have solar-capable equipment (binoculars, telescope, etc.), reach out to your local school, museum, library, community center, or senior center and ask if they would like you to set up with them to help share this event with the locals. Collaborate on a fun and informative flyer that can be shared about the eclipse and what folks can expect to see the day of – weather permitting, of course.

If you’re an educator, visit the National Science Teaching Association for classroom resources.

In the event you cannot connect with an organization, you can always set up in your local park, in an area that is highly visible with lots of foot traffic.

Virtual Broadcast

If you prefer to avoid crowds but still want to connect with people, you can host your own broadcast party using a camera and your solar-capable equipment. If you don’t have a camera capable of connecting to your telescope, connect your smartphone using a smartphone adapter, and stream your view over social media. Facebook, for example, will allow you to stream for 8 hours.

This method is great for its ability to reach people across the globe. If you choose to go this route, however, make sure you have an extra battery to charge your camera device during the stream!

If you decide to engage with the public directly, have fun with it! Work the crowd, tell your best space jokes. Have a fun space outfit? Wear it! Science can be educational and entertaining!

Person standing at telescope
The author in Kerrville, Texas, broadcasting the annular solar eclipse.
Sonnet Apple

Things to Avoid

Of course, there are things to avoid when engaging in outreach. Here are the pitfalls to look out for:

  • Jargon: Does the average person know what a Saros cycle is? What about a coronal mass ejection? Make content as user-friendly as possible for any audience you speak with. By avoiding jargon, you can make the content more relatable and digestible.
  • Lack of Adaptability: Does your audience need accessibility access? Does your audience primarily consist of members within the Blind and Low Vision community? Do they need translation services for other languages such as Spanish or ASL? Forecast the best ways to meet their needs and make it part of your standard outreach practices moving forward, because astronomy is for everyone.
  • Have Back-Up: If you decide to set up your equipment for public use, use the buddy system. Make sure someone is willing to stay with you throughout the day in case you need crowd control or even a restroom break.

No matter how you choose to engage the public this April, the people you connect with will never forget how it felt, and that you helped them experience it. So get out there and celebrate!


Image of Fire-Starter James

Fire-Starter James

February 22, 2024 at 1:03 pm

My favorite is using a make-up mirror to project the image to the bottom of a white water tower. Walls work well also.

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