Collecting Data during the Eclipse

The total solar eclipse provides a great opportunity for students to collect and analyze data and make scientific connections as they experience a real-world phenomenon. A great time to engage students in hands-on learning during the eclipse is after First Contact. Educators can incorporate various technology-enabled investigations and cross-curricular lessons related to the natural occurrences that often happen throughout the duration of the eclipse:

  • It gets darker. Students can investigate the rate at which it gets darker, how the light level compares to the percentage of the sun visible, and whether these two things are proportional by using a light sensor to measure light levels.
  • The wind changes as you approach totality. Students can use an anemometer to collect wind speed data.
  • It gets cooler. Students could use a data-collection device to collect temperature, wind speed, and light level data over the course of a couple of hours. It would be easy for students to compare the temperature and wind speed readings with weather station data from just outside the region of totality.
  • The color of the sky changes. To find out what is really going on, students could use a spectrophotometer to studying the emission spectrum.
  • There are strange animal sounds. Students could try to record these noises.
  • Clouds form. Students could try to document this change in a video. The eclipse creates its own weather by cooling the air and causing clouds to form, and it would be interesting to try and capture a video of the people watching the eclipse, showing both the weather and people’s reaction.

At Vernier, we are encouraging teachers across the country to share their data and photos with us, so we can provide a summary of this information after the eclipse.

Practical Tips and Resources

If you plan to experience the Great American Eclipse, either by yourself or with your students, here are some practical pointers:

  • Photography: While some may try to take photos during totality, remember that this will be a very short, very exciting time that lasts two minutes or less. Let the professional photographers take the photos and just enjoy the eclipse.
  • Plan Ahead:  Anticipate being at the eclipse site for at least an hour and a half and being in the sun for all but a couple minutes of that time. Wear sunscreen, bring water, and do not forget your solar glasses or solar projection system.
  • Traffic:  It would be a real bummer to be stuck in traffic, outside the path of totality, during the eclipse. It is estimated that more people will come to the United States for this eclipse than for any other event, including the World Cup, Super Bowl, or Indianapolis 500. There may be some epic traffic jams, so arrange a spot to visit long before the eclipse starts.

If you are interested in learning more about the total solar eclipse, check out these trusted sources:

The total solar eclipse is truly a spectacular astronomical event—and learning experience—that both educators and students won’t soon forget. Mark your calendars and make sure to experience it to its fullest!

About the Author:

David Vernier is the co-founder of Vernier Software & Technology (www.vernier.com). To learn more about the resources and tips provided by Vernier for the Great American Eclipse and to participate in its data-sharing project, visit www.vernier.com/eclipse.