2017 Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon blocks any part of the sun, casting a shadow on the Earth.

On Monday, August 21, 2017 a solar eclipse will be visible (weather permitting) across all of North America. The whole continent will experience a partial eclipse lasting 2 to 3 hours. Halfway through the event, anyone within a 60 to 70 mile-wide path from Oregon to South Carolina will experience a total eclipse. During those brief moments when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face, day will turn to night, and bright stars and planets will become visible. This is truly one of nature’s most awesome sights.

While Iowa is just outside the "path of totality," we will still see a 95% obscuration, as the moon blocks the light from the sun. In Des Moines, the eclipse will begin at 11:42 am, maximum eclipse (95% obscuration) will happen at 1:08 pm, and the eclipse will end at 2:33 pm.


How to view the eclipse safely

The only safe way to look directly at the sun is through special-purpose solar filters. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.

Safe viewing options:

  • "Eclipse glasses" or handheld solar viewers – SOLD OUT at SCI's A-ha! Gift Store, but FREE with each ticket to SolarMax in IMAX.
  • Telescopes/binoculars with solar filters – Telescopes or binoculars, like the ones at SCI’s solar eclipse event, will have filters that allow you to look at the magnified sun and clearly see the progress of the eclipse.
  • Welder's glass – Experts suggest that #14 welder’s glass is safe for solar viewing. Make sure you get welder's glass with a #14 or darker filter. (Most arc welders use glass with a shade that is much less than the necessary #14.)
  • Pinhole projectors – Pinhole projectors are a way to view the eclipse INDIRECTLY. Hold the pinhole projector close to the ground with a piece of white paper several inches below it. What you will see is not just a dot of light but an actual image of the sun!

Photographing the eclipse: Do not try to photograph the eclipse without a solar filter. Looking at the sun through a camera lens can cause damage to the eye and damage to the camera.


Celebrate the eclipse with SCI

We are happy to provide many opportunities to celebrate this celestial event before and during the eclipse:

  • Cafe Scientifique: Solar Eclipse 101 – Tuesday, August 8, 5:30-7:30 pm
    Join SCI for a special Skype presentation with Dr. Ethan Siegel, theoretical physicist and founder of Forbes' "Starts with a Bang" column. Cafe Sci events are free and open to the public.
  • Special IMAX presentations of SOLARMAX and daily eclipse programming – Thursday, August 10 - Sunday, August 20
    Leading up to the eclipse, SCI visitors will be able to learn about the eclipse through special demonstrations and the IMAX documentary SOLARMAX, showing daily at 1:08 pm. Each ticket to SOLARMAX includes a free pair of eclipse viewing glasses.

  • Solar Eclipse Event at the Iowa State Capitol Monday, August 21, 11:45 am - 2:30 pm
    Join SCI and the Des Moines Astronomical Society to view the 2017 solar eclipse! Staff and volunteers will provide telescopes with solar filters for the public to safely view the eclipse.

Questions about the eclipse? Join the conversation on our 2017 eclipse Facebook event, or contact us at scienceinquiries@sciowa.org.

For media inquiries, contact Emilee Richardson at emilee.richardson@sciowa.org.