This upcoming Monday, the United States will be cloaked in shadow as the moon blocks out the sun over North America.
Residents all over the country are preparing for the solar eclipse, an event surrounded by both scientific and cultural hype.
Two people working to enhance the eclipse-watching experience for Americans are the Director of STEM Education at WGBH, Rachel Connolly, and NASA scientist Alex Young. They joined BPR to talk about how to get the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Young called it an "amazing opportunity.”
“Those people in that path of totality — it’s about 70 miles wide — are going to get to see one of nature’s most amazing spectacles,” he said. “Even better, arguably, is the fact that the entire United States, all of North America, Central and some of South America, are going to get to see a partial eclipse. And that’s something to write home about.”
Connolly described her experience traveling to France in 1998 to see the eclipse.
“I saw two seconds of it because it was cloudy,” she said. Despite the brevity of the experience, Connolly called it "primal.”
For that brief moment, everything is so different than what you're used to. It doesn't make sense.'
She emphasized the importance of getting the word out to people, both so they can enjoy it and also so they aren’t alarmed.
“It can be a little bit concerning if you don’t know what’s happening, so awareness is first, and then safety and preparing people for how to then safely watch it, and then it can get deeper into learning more about the science and all that,” she said.
Connolly also wanted to remind people that beyond the science, they ought to appreciate the rarity and beauty of the event.
“For a few minutes you’re going to be standing in the shadow of another celestial object,” she said. “That doesn’t happen all the time.”
Young agreed, reveling in the peculiarity of the experience.
“For that brief moment, everything is so different than what you’re used to. It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “It is like being on an alien planet or something like that.”
Rachel Connolly is the Director of STEM Education at WGBH and PBS LearningMedia. Alex Young is Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. To hear their interview in its entirety, click on the audio player above.
Click here for eclipse information, maps and safety tips.
Finally, more information about PBS LearningMedia can be found here.