Science Through Shadows (STS) is a NASA-funded Science Activation Project.
STS seeks to increase astronomy literacy and inform people about NASA’s diverse range of projects (not just Mars and Telescopes in Space!), and NASA’s workforce diversity, through dissemination of short films about solar eclipses, occultations, transits, and small bodies of the Solar System. Films are produced in both full dome (planetarium) and flat screen formats and are free for download and use. STS will also involve high school students in the production of some of these films. STS has also provided inflatable planetariums to national partners in Oakland, Detroit, Houston, and Hancock County, Mississippi.
STS is funded by NASA grant #80NSSC22M0124
Ring of Fire
On October 14, 2023, individuals and communities across North America will have the chance to see an annular solar eclipse. This type of eclipse is commonly referred to as a “ring of fire” eclipse and is different from a “total” solar eclipse. This video outlines the differences between the two, discusses best practices for viewing the eclipse, and prepares audience members to have an amazing experience on eclipse day!
Total Eclipse of the Sun
A total solar eclipse is one of nature’s most incredible events. On April 8th, 2024, observers across North America will have the opportunity to experience this phenomenon. This video will teach audience members what to expect on eclipse day, how to safely view the eclipse, and why it will be worth it to travel to the path of totality!
What Causes Eclipses?
What is an eclipse? Why do they happen? This edition of Science Through Shadows will dive into the mechanisms that cause an eclipse, address common misconceptions surrounding eclipses, and shed light on the differences between types of eclipses.
Interested in downloading our 2D rectilinear format videos for your library, classroom or museum? Fill out our Fiske Productions video download form to receive details for downloading these flat screen videos for viewing offline.
For planetariums, full dome masters in 1K, 2K, and 4K can be downloaded for your full dome facility. Visit the Fiske Fulldome Productions page and fill out the Full Dome request form.
The free, immersive, full dome short films to be provided through Science through Shadows are ideal for inclusion in live programming around solar and lunar eclipses, stellar occultations, and planetary transits. The videos can also be used as “informational trailers” at the beginning or end of any programming at your facility. Videos on the upcoming North American solar eclipses can be used to promote public awareness of these exciting events. They can also be used to educate audiences about safe eclipse viewing and to promote distribution of protective glasses and filters for safe Sun watching. Full dome masters can be downloaded through the Fiske Productions Full Dome request form.
The free, 2D rectilinear short films to be provided through Science through Shadows (STS) are intended to engage library patrons in public awareness about solar and lunar eclipses, stellar occultations, and planetary transits. The videos can be shown with closed-captioning on library kiosks and public service announcement screens. Additionally, video and other resources from STS could be used to support public programming on the upcoming North American solar eclipses. The videos can also be used in conjunction with programming involving eclipse viewing glasses and other resources to be provided through Star Library Network run by the Space Science Institute. 2D rectilinear masters can be viewed using YouTube or by downloading video master files for viewing offline.
If your museum has a high definition video wall, you can download the 2D rectilinear versions of our Science through Shadows (STS) for viewing. You can also use our videos on smaller screen kiosks. The materials provided by STS can also be used to host public programming on eclipses, occultations, and/or transits. If your museum has a planetarium, the full dome version of the film is perfect for engaging audiences in immersive experiences. They can also be used to educate audiences about safe eclipse viewing and to promote distribution of protective glasses and filters for safe Sun watching.
For classroom teachers, you can use Science through Shadows videos across your campus to promote the upcoming North American eclipses and safe solar viewing. The videos can be used across disciplines and within contained classrooms. This includes all K-12 settings (not just science classrooms). The videos can be used in science classrooms to promote science inquiry around eclipses, occultations, and transits, three astronomical phenomena involving alignments and shadows.
- How often do eclipses occur? from Dennis Schatz, Pacific Science Center - Modeling Eclipses is an educator guide to lead a Moon phase modeling activity. Learners will simulate solar and lunar eclipses using hula hoops and other materials. They will learn about eclipses' occurrence and why some are rare.
- Big Sun, Small Moon from National Informal Stem Education Network (NISE) - It is a remarkable fact (and coincidence) that the Earth has a satellite of just the right size and distance; from Earth, the Moon appears to be the same size as the Sun. This is one of the main reasons the eclipses occur. In this activity, learners explore the concept of apparent size by using printable materials and looking at models of celestial bodies at different distances.
- For a similar activity without materials, see Eclipse Your Friend with your Thumb, by Exploratorium.
- The next solar eclipses that cross the US are on Saturday, October 14, 2023 (annular solar eclipse) and Monday, April 8, 2024 (total solar eclipse). Find out more information from NASA about these eclipses, including downloadable activities, information about our Sun, and alternative ways to watch the eclipses.
- Find supplementary educational activities related to eclipses in this list compiled by Andrew Farknoi.
- Find additional eclipse guides and resources for teachers in the National Science Teachers Association (NSTS) eclipse page.
What causes a solar eclipse?
If the moon goes in front of the sun and blocks its light, that’s a solar eclipse, also called eclipse of the sun.
Is there dangerous radiation on the day of an eclipse?
The sun on eclipse day is no different than on any other day. The sun is always dangerous to look at unless you protect your eyes! You wouldn’t stare at the sun any ordinary day, because it would hurt your eyes. If part of the sun is covered on eclipse day, even if only a little of the sun shows, it still can hurt your eyes. During the partial eclipse, you must protect your eyes to watch. Another way to put it – there’s no new or strange radiation on eclipse day, but the ordinary radiation from the sun is too bright to look at without protection.
Can I wear sunglasses to watch the eclipse?
NO, NO, NO! The special eclipse watching glasses are 1000 times darker than sunglasses.
Can I take pictures of the sun with my phone?
Yes, but the camera MUST be protected with a filter.
How different is a TOTAL eclipse from a partial eclipse?
VERY different! A partial eclipse is interesting, fun to watch and take pictures of. You put eclipse- watching glasses over your eyes, and it takes one or two hours (depending on where you are) for the moon to slowly cross in front of the sun. But… A TOTAL eclipse is unbelievable! It is impossible to explain how moving it is to someone who hasn’t seen it. It is so strange! People scream, shout, and celebrate. The sky darkens and the unearthly silver streamers of the sun’s corona stretch across the sky, while pink “flames” – prominences – decorate the sun’s edge. It gets cold. The landscape color changes, and it feels like the ordinary world is ending. All this lasts for just a few minutes. You can see people’s reactions in the Total Eclipse video. Comparing a partial eclipse to a total eclipse is like comparing a photo of the Grand Canyon to being in the canyon, or like comparing hearing a song with earbuds to being at a concert and sitting right in front of the stage! Even animals respond to a total eclipse: whales, dolphins, llamas! ONLY during the total part of the eclipse, do you take off your protective glasses and marvel at the amazing scene.
Dr. Douglas Duncan, Principal Investigator
Dr. Doug Duncan was part of the research group that discovered sunspot cycles on other stars, on the staff of the Hubble Space Telescope, and Director of Fiske Planetarium from 2002-2018. He has witnessed and taken people to 12 total solar eclipses, starting on March 7, 1970. He loves to communicate astronomy and has done commentary for 11 years on National Public Radio.
Dr. John Keller, Principal Investigator
Dr. John Keller is the Director of Fiske Planetarium and a Teaching Professor of Distinction within the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department at the University of Colorado Boulder. Keller is a planetary scientist with research interests in occultations, astronomy education, and teacher preparation. He is PI and Co-PI for multiple NASA and NSF funded projects through which Fiske produces immersive full dome films that are shared with the planetarium community worldwide free of charge. Read more...