There’s nothing quite like seeing science in action to really drive home how cool it is to kids. (Case in point: life cycle of a butterfly.) You may have heard another major opportunity to experience science IRL is nigh: “The Great American Eclipse” is taking place on August 21. Here’s how to see and enjoy this astronomical event as a family in NYC!

photo: Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel

What’s the Big Deal? 
Well, this is the first time a full solar eclipse has been visible in the lower 48 states since 1979, the first time since 1923 it’s been visible in New York City, and the first time it’s been viewable coast to coast since 1918!

It’s a great chance to get children excited about science, and although the total eclipse will be visible only in a swath about 60 to 70 miles wide from Portland, Or to Charleston, Sc, New York and New Jersey will get a view of a partial solar eclipse ranging from 70-77% coverage that you shouldn’t miss. After all, the next total solar eclipse visible in the US won’t be until 2024! Can’t travel to take in the full eclipse? Here’s how to enjoy this event right near home.

The Details
The partial eclipse will last from 1:20-4p.m. in the NYC region with the fullest point at around 2:44 — the percentage you see will depend on your exact location. Make sure to plan ahead: have the equipment you need and get to your viewing location in plenty of time.

photo: Paul Deans / TravelQuest International

Safety First!
Remember, looking at the sun directly at any time outside the exact period of a total solar eclipse or through any device such as a telescope can severely damage your eyes. Cameras without special filters are not safe, either, and can easily be ruined by taking pictures of the sun.  Make sure to read the safety guidelines by NASA,  and the American Astronomical Society’s guide to reputable eye protection vendors.

The STAR Library Education Network (STAR_Net), is also giving out over 2 million viewing glasses at 7,000 public libraries during eclipse-viewing events. To see if you can get free glasses, check out this map and contact locations near your for details.

photo: Mark Margolis / Rainbow Symphony

DIY Activities
If you want to prep for the eclipse, it doesn’t get much easier than the free Totality Eclipse App by Big Kid Science (available for Android or iOS.)  You can use it to find out exactly what you’ll see at your location, navigate to the nearest spots where you can witness the total eclipse, learn about eclipses, explore activities and shop for eclipse glasses..

Looking for more cool stuff? Astrophysicist Dr. Jackie Faherty of the American Museum of Natural History recommends checking out resources like the Google/Berkeley eclipse simulator, Google maps of the event such as those you can see on and the Washington Post’s solar eclipse section for interactive graphics, interviews, articles and more.


Ask the Experts
NASA’s site is also chock-full of ideas for
activities or planning an eclipse party. For example, your little astronomers can make a pinhole viewer from a cereal box, help put together a solar viewer, describe the eclipse in six words and have their submission put in a NASA time capsule to be opened on April 8, 2024 when the next total solar eclipse occurs over the continental United States. Another idea: create a time capsule with letters to future selves, complete with photos of them viewing the eclipse.

If you want to capture the eclipse itself, check out Mr. Eclipse’s guide to taking eclipse photos with a camera or the NASA guide to taking photos with a smartphone.  Until August 11, you can also make a donation to Astronomers Without Borders to provide safe viewing glasses to schools and other organizations in underserved communities.

And, of course, you can watch NASA’s live stream or use the Exploratorium app to see the eclipse as it happens.

photo: Mark Margolis / Rainbow Symphony

Eclipse Events
Join in with other excited viewers at these local happenings where you can learn more about the science of the eclipse, view it safely and participate in fun activities.

New York City

American Museum of Natural History/Hayden Planetarium
Join museum explainers for pop-up talks in the Hall of the Universe, participate in safe viewing via sun spotters, pinhole viewers and free eclipse glasses for kids, and gather in the Rose Center for Earth and Space for NASA’s live broadcast of the total solar eclipse.

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192

New York Public Library
NYPL branches are adding events and some have free eclipse viewing glasses you can pick up, so check out the listing below and contact your local branch for more information

photo: skeeze via Pixabay

NYPL Solar Eclipse Viewing Parties
Bring the kids for free activities, crafts, and watch the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse at the library! Free eclipse viewing safety glasses will be provided. All ages welcome, but check with your local library to see you need to sign up and arrive early.

West Farms Library
2085 Honeywell Avenue

Pelham Bay Library
3060 Middletown Road

Clinton Hill Library
380 Washington Ave. at Lafayette Ave.
Clinton Hill

NYPL Other Events

Kids Create: Solar Eclipse Chalk Drawings
Aug. 14, 3p.m.
Cortelyou Library
1305 Cortelyou Rd. at Argyle Rd.
Ditmas Park

Mad Science of New York: Planets & Moons
Aug. 21, 3p.m.
Cypress Hills Library
1197 Sutter Ave. at Crystal St.
Cypress Hills-City Line

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Long Island

The Custer Institute & Observatory
The oldest public observatory on Long Island will be open from 1-4PM to observe the eclipse.

Custer Institute
1115 Main Bayview Rd.
Southold, Ny


Westchester Amateur Astronomers/Harrison Public Library
WAA Assistant Vice President Claudia Parrington will be hosting a viewing event at the Harrison Library.
Richard E. Halperin Memorial Library Building
2 Bruce Ave,
Harrison, Ny

New Paltz

Mid-Hudson Astronomical Association/SUNY New Paltz
The MHAA and SUNY Department of Physics and Astronomy is hosting a viewing event with solar telescope from 1-4p.m. on the Excelsior Concourse.  It is free and open to the public.

State University of New York at New Paltz
1 Hawk Drive
Coykendall Science Building
New Paltz

Photo: uacnj on Instagram

New Jersey

Newark Museum Planetarium
On select dates through Aug 18, the planetarium will be showing Eclipse: The Sun Revealed, a journey through the historical and cultural view of eclipses, the geometry that gives us eclipses, and a first-hand account of one eclipse chaser’s experience during a total solar eclipse. Museum admission and planetarium admission fees apply.
Newark Museum

49 Washington St.

Liberty Science Center
Beginning at 10 a.m., the LSC STEM team has a packed day planned! They will have telescopes and sunspotters out on the lawn, plus a special scope with a camera and monitors for safely displaying the eclipse during its progression. Live science demos will include a solar eclipse model and explanation, and they’ll share a live remote broadcast from Cadiz, Kentucky where the eclipse will be total. The fun will also include Sun Globe Racing in inflatable hamster balls, space crafts (such as sundials, eclipse art, and more), and a special 5:15 p.m. showing of the Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon Laser Show.

Liberty Science Center
Liberty State Park2
22 Jersey City Blvd.
Jersey City

United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey
UACNJ will have an eclipse viewing event on from 12:30-4p.m. with solar telescopes and solar binoculars available for the public to safely view the sun. They will also have solar glasses for sale at $2 per pair. They will stream coverage of the path of totality in the lecture hall so the public is welcome to join in regardless of the weather.

UACNJ Observatory
Jenny Jump State Forest
333 State Park Road
Hope, Nj

What are your family eclipse viewing plans? Tell us in the comments! 

–Gretchen Kunz