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Wednesday August 9th, 2017

Museum Hosts Solar Eclipse Viewing

Free Eclipse Glasses Now Available!

(Alamogordo, New Mexico, August 8, 2017) – With the Great American Eclipse 2017 just around the corner, plans are being made nationwide to watch this spectacular event. In New Mexico, totality will reach only about 67% but it will still be a sight to behold, if done safely. The New Mexico Museum of Space History is planning a solar eclipse party beginning at 10:30 on August 21, with eye safe ways for you and your family to view the eclipse.

“This will be a great opportunity for the public to learn about how the Sun influences our lives,” said Museum Executive Director Chris Orwoll. “Even though Alamogordo will only experience a partial eclipse, it is still a significant event.”

Beginning Wednesday, August 9, the museum will be offering free safety certified solar eclipse glasses, one per person, at the museum reception desk during regular operating hours. Everyone is encouraged to bring them back on August 21 and enjoy the free activities planned for the solar eclipse.

The museum is offering several activities for eclipse day, including a live feed from NASA of the total solar eclipse coverage along with webcasts from other sources, a workshop to teach you to create your own eye safe pinhole solar eclipse viewer, and Education Director Dave Dooling will talk about what causes eclipses and how they helped scientists discover the true nature of the Sun. All of these activities are free to the public and will be held on the first floor of the museum beginning at 10:30.

At 11:30, a few minutes before maximum at 11:47:51 a.m., activities will move to the museum patio for observing through a Sunspotter and an H-alpha solar telescope as well as the pinhole viewers and eclipse glasses. In addition, the museum will have free eclipse glasses available while supplies last. The eclipse glasses were donated by a local Astronomy Group and were provided through a grant by the Sunspot Community and are certified by the Astronomical League. Museum activities will end at 1:30 p.m.

Ancient cultures believed that when a solar eclipse happened, as it will on August 21, it was actually a dragon or demon (possibly a toad or giant bird) attempting to eat the sun. The Chinese and Incas would make lots of noise and commotion during an eclipse to try and frighten the beast away. The word itself, “eclipse,” is the Greek word for abandonment and to early civilizations it seemed like that was what happened. What today is a very exciting event for astronomers and the public alike, was seen back then as a very bad omen.

Totality for the U.S. starts on the west coast of Oregon at 11:16 a.m. MDT, heads southeast across the Lower 48 southeast, and exits through South Carolina at 2:49 p.m. MDT. In Alamogordo, the partial eclipse starts at 10:23 a,m,, reaches maximum at 11:47:51 a.m., and ends at 1:17 p.m.

All activities are free and open to the public.

For more details on what to see and where, visit the NASA interactive eclipse map

Always practice safe viewing! The NASA website says:
It’s common sense not to stare directly at the Sun with your naked eyes or risk damaging your vision, and that advice holds true for a partially eclipsed Sun. But, only with special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or a handheld solar viewer, you can safely look directly at the Sun.

NASA recommends that people who plan to view the eclipse should check the safety authenticity of viewing glasses to ensure they meet basic proper safety viewing standards.

Eclipse viewing glasses and handheld solar viewers should meet all the following criteria:

  • Have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard
  • Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product
  • Not be used if they are older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses
  • Not use homemade filters
  • Ordinary sunglasses -- even very dark ones -- should not be used as a replacement for eclipse viewing glasses or handheld solar viewers

An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially-eclipsed Sun is with a pinhole projector. With this method, sunlight streams through a small hole – such as a pencil hole in a piece of paper, or even the space between your fingers – onto a makeshift screen, such as a piece of paper or the ground. It’s important to only watch the screen, not the Sun. Never look at the Sun through the pinhole -- it is not safe.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at www.nmspacemuseum.org. Like us at: www.facebook.com/NMSpaceMuseum/