- Michele Brown
If you’re interested in the solar eclipse that’s happening on August 21, then the library is the hot place to be. While we won’t see a total eclipse in our area, it still promises to be a unique event and a spectacular opportunity to learn more about our sun, moon, and everything astronomical. Central Rappahannock Regional Library not only has books and articles to enlighten the community on heavenly physics, but we will also host solar celebrations and safe solar viewing parties at many of the branches.
Safe eclipse viewing glasses will be available on August 21 while supplies last at all library locations, thanks to a program supported, in part, by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, with additional help from Google, National Science Foundation (NSF), and NASA. These glasses were distributed free to about 4,800 organizations, including public library branches, bookmobiles, tribal libraries, library consortia, and state libraries through the Space Science Institute’s National Center of Interactive Learning and their STAR Library Education Network. STAR-Net helps libraries with STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) programming.
Fun activities for learning more about solar eclipses will be held at library viewing parties in the Stafford and Spotsylvania branches:
Porter Branch, 2001 Parkway Boulevard, Stafford, 1:00-4:00
England Run Branch, 806 Lyons Boulevard, Fredericksburg, 2:00-3:00
Salem Church Branch, 2607 Salem Church Road, Fredericksburg, 1:30-3:30
Snow Branch, 8740 Courthouse Road, Spotsylvania, 1:30-3:30
Headquarters Library, at 1201 Caroline Street in Fredericksburg, will welcome back popular storyteller Johnny Mac Chinn. A member of the Patawomeck Indian Tribe, Chinn will tell “Tales as Old as the Sun,” from 2:15 to 3:00. Traditional Patawomeck music rounds out this event that is suitable for all ages.
Cooper Branch, in Westmoreland County, is taking their celebration to the beach from 1:30-3:00. If you’re heading to this event at Colonial Beach, sign up for safe eclipse viewing glasses beforehand by calling the branch at 804-224-0921. Besides eclipse viewing at the beach, activities here will include a ceremony to bury a time capsule.
For more information on these August 21 sunsational activities, call the library branches, or visit our website at http://www.librarypoint.org/explorenewworlds.
Of course, to get the most out of your viewing, you’ll want to understand what exactly is happening out there in space. Check out one of our recommended books for your pre-viewing edification.
Start with Your Guide to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, by Michael E. Bakich, if you’re looking for information specific to this summer’s event. The author is the editor of Astronomy Magazine, so we’re confident he knows what he’s talking about. Plus, he’s one of those science writers who makes high concept ideas easy to understand. He even gives photography tips.
If you’re looking for cultural background on why and how we make a fuss about solar eclipses, try Anthony F. Aveni’s In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses. He’s an astronomer and anthropologist who can captivate the reader with the historical significance of solar eclipses from prehistoric times to the present, with a little science thrown in.
Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses, from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets, by Tyler E. Norgren, also traces the history and science of eclipses in beautiful prose. We like the illustrations and the fact that the author helped design the sundials, or “Marsdials”, that journeyed to Mars on the rovers. We also like that he tours our national parks giving talks to visitors on the wonders of the night sky.
Eclipse: Journeys to the Dark Side of the Moon, by F.E. Close, adds a personal, memoir-like touch and an inspirational twist to the science and myth of eclipses. He anticipates the 2017 eclipse experience he plans to share with his grandson.
For an escape from reality, try the fictional adventures of eclipse chasers in the rugged American West of the 19th century. It’s Shooting the Sun, by Max Byrd.
What I like best about working at the public library, besides the soul-deep pleasure of helping a customer find just the right information, discover an exciting new novel, or learn how to access eBooks and eMagazines, is that I, too, learn something new almost every day. In my research for this article, that something new was a word: umbraphile. If you don’t already know what that is, it’s someone who really likes solar eclipses. We bibliophiles welcome all umbraphiles to the library for solar eclipse information or pretty much anything else under the sun.
This article first appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper.