If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you might have heard that there was a partial solar eclipse today over much of the US. Here in Grand Forks, ND, the eclipse began about 4:45pm CDT. While you should never look at the sun with the naked eye, you can view a solar eclipse by making a simple pinhole projector out of an ordinary shoe box (Directions here: http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/make-pinhole-projector.html).
This will give you a projection of the eclipse, much like the one pictured below.
So what causes a solar eclipse? Well, basically, when the moon orbits the earth, it passes between the earth and the sun. This creates a shadow on the earth as the moon blocks incoming sunlight. NASA has a great diagram of this, posted below.
Our eclipse today was only a partial solar eclipse, which happens when the sun, moon, and the earth are not totally lined up, causing a shadow to appear on only a part of the sun’s surface. A total solar eclipse is when all three are exactly lined up, blocking out the sun completely for a small area on the earth and partially for a much wider area.
If you missed this solar eclipse, don’t worry! According to NASA, a total solar eclipse will occur over parts of the United States on August 21, 2017. So mark your calendars! (And save some shoe boxes!)