What are you doing on August 21, 2017?

On that date, there will be a Total Solar Eclipse visible in the United States… the first one since 1979! While we are not on the path of totality in Northern Kentucky, meaning the entire sun will not be blocked by the moon‘s shadow in our line of sight; we will be able to see about 90% of the sun covered! This will be the most exciting astronomical event in the US for quite some time, and I am very excited to share not just the solar eclipse, but space in general!
In February, there was a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, meaning that we were seeing the edges of the earth’s shadow on the moon. In order to share the experience with as many people as possible, I held a Lunar Eclipse program that evening at the Erlanger Branch. 75 people of a wide range of ages attended to learn about the eclipse, build some models of how eclipses work, and practice “becoming” eclipses themselves. We also took the library’s 8” Dobsonian Reflector telescope out on the front sidewalk to look at the moon during the eclipse. Since it was a Penumbral Eclipse and not a total Lunar Eclipse, it wasn’t a spectacular event, but the view of the moon that night was very good regardless! During the program, families created models, then used flashlights to simulate the sun’s light.
If you did not make it to the Lunar Eclipse program, there are many other opportunities for you to experience the wonders of space at KCPL. I frequently hold children’s and all-ages programs related to astronomy and space. In fact, On April 13, at 7:00 pm, I will be presenting a children’s program at the Erlanger Branch called Meet a Meteorite! School age kids will get to listen to stories related to meteorites, do some space-related activities, and even touch a real meteorite from space! And on April 23, beginning at 7:00 pm, you can join me at Lincoln Ridge Park in Independence for a Watch the Sky party! The Lyrid Meteor Shower will be happening that weekend, and with some luck, we’ll get to see some meteors while we’re at the park! We’ll share some stories and information, create a sky-watching journal, and more. I will bring the library’s programming telescope for opportunities to view the stars. You are invited to bring blankets or chairs and Kenton County Parks and Recreation will be providing popcorn!
Once the program ends, you’ll have your sky journal to continue your sky-watching at home. It may come in handy if you make use of the telescopes we have available for check-out! KCPL now has 6 telescopes available for card-holders to check out; two are housed at each of our three branches. These are smaller versions of the telescope I use in programming. They are 4” Dobsonian Reflectors, and come with an accessory kit which includes two different eyepieces (one higher magnification than the other), a Barlow lens, a lunar filter, a guide book, and more.
The telescopes are easily transportable, come with a table-top stand, and all the accessories packed in a bag. While it is important that only experienced astronomers use a telescope to look at the solar eclipse (and then only with the proper solar filters!) there are lots and lots of opportunities to look at interesting things in the night sky. The full or almost-full moon is always  a good choice, as well as the possibility of seeing things like Venus, Mars, or even Jupiter or Saturn. More information about the telescopes for check out can be found on the library’s website, here: http://www.kentonlibrary.org/telescope-lending-guidelines
There will be a number of pre-eclipse programs available at the Erlanger Branch in August, for both children and adults. An all-ages Eclipse Prep program will take place on August 12, and on August 18, I will be providing eclipse information and preparation for the entire student body of Miles Elementary. I will return to the school on August 21 to share the eclipse with the students and staff of the school, providing them with safe solar viewing glasses for the event. Safe eclipse viewing glasses will also be available for those who attend other eclipse events through the library, thanks to a grant from the Moore Foundation, administered through the Space Science Institute and STAR_net: Science Technology Activities & Resources for Libraries. More information regarding the grant program and the eclipse in general can be found here: http://www.starnetlibraries.org/2017eclipse/  More information about KCPL programs can also be found on the STAR_net blog, contributed by me.
There are many print resources available for check out as well, both in the children’s department and for adults. Books ranging from the history of astronomy to finding constellations, to NASA missions, to rocketry experiments are all available; as well as a variety of resources that is available in the databases offered by the library:  http://www.kentonlibrary.org/research-learning. Always look up!
Blog Post by Jennifer Beach
Erlanger Children’s Programmer
Certified Professional Environmental Educator
KY ECET Credential (EE Specialty)