Watching with Kids? A Guide for Viewing the Solar Eclipse in Tampa Bay

You may have heard that a solar eclipse will be viewable in the Tampa Bay Area on Monday, August 21, 2017. If you haven’t, then you are officially on notice! It’s the first time since 1918 that one has crossed our country coast-to-coast, so it’s kinda a big deal. All it takes is three easy steps:

  1. Go outside,
  2. Put on your special solar eclipse glasses (more on that below), and
  3. Look up and be prepared to be amazed.
Solar Eclipse in Tampa Bay

Total Solar Eclipse

What happens during a solar eclipse?

The moon moves into the path of the sun, creating a shadow on the Earth. It will look like the moon is blocking the sun’s rays. The Earth, moon, and sun all have to be lined up in order for this to happen. Here in Tampa Bay, we are lucky to view a partial solar eclipse where about 81% of sunlight will be blocked by the moon.

Starting at 1:17pm, the peak of the eclipse occurs at 2:49pm, with it waning until 4:14pm. This is around the time some kids get out of school, so pick them up a little early to get your watch-party on!

Free Viewing Parties Around the Bay

Hillsborough County

  • MOSI Solar Eclipse Party (4801 E Fowler Ave, Tampa)
    1-3:30pm, with STEM activities including making your own eclipse viewer and using MOSI’s specialized telescopes
  • Solar Eclipse Viewing Event – 78th Street Community Library (7625 Palm River Rd, Tampa)
    1-4:30pm in the Community Room

    • Astronomy: Solar Eclipse Program 8/15, 7-8pm. Attendance limited to 50.
    • Solar System Story Time 8/16, 11-11:30am for 3-5 year olds
  • STEAM Squadron: Solar Eclipse – North Tampa Branch Library (8916 North Boulevard, Tampa)
    2:30-3:30pm in the Computer Lab for K-5Th graders

Pinellas County

  • Solar Eclipse Viewing – St. Petersburg College Planetarium, Gibbs Campus Quad Area (6605 5th Ave N, St. Petersburg)
    1:15-4pm; eclipse glasses and solar filtered telescopes available
  • Largo Public Library (120 Central Park Dr, Largo)
    • Totally Solar Program on Friday, August 18th at 4pm for kids ages 6-12 to learn about the eclipse, play trivia, and make some solar crafts. Registration required.
  • Great American Solar Eclipse Party hosted by the Safety Harbor Library at Waterfront Park (110 Veterans Memorial Lane, Safety Harbor)
    2-3pm, eclipse glasses available
  • Solar Eclipse Viewing – Seminole Community Library at St. Petersburg College (9200 113th St N, Seminole)
    1:17-4:14pm on the lawn, solar viewing glasses available
  • Beach Chair Eclipse Viewing – St. Pete Beach Public Library (365 73rd Ave, St. Petersburg Beach)
    1-4:30pm, bring a beach chair; eclipse glasses available

    • Pre-Eclipse Show on Friday, August 18th, 4:30-5:30pm for kids ages 7-12 to learn about eclipses.

Or Throw a Watch Party of Your Own

I’m a minimalist, so I don’t think you need to do a whole lot to throw an eclipse viewing party, mostly because the eclipse itself is going to be stellar! Put out some picnic blankets and beach chairs, grab some space themed snacks (starbursts, milky ways, moon pies, and sun chips) and drinks (Blue Moons for the adults and Tang for the littles), and play Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (or make a playlist like Geek Dad) to set the mood and you’re good to go.

Safety Tips

Definitely purchase a pair of safe solar eclipse-specific glasses or handheld viewers, or check your local library (the Seminole branch, my local library, has already given all theirs away). These will have an ISO 12312-2 international standard certification printed on them by the manufacturer. Do NOT use damaged glasses or regular sunglasses – they won’t protect your eyes.

If you cannot get your hands on eclipse glasses or viewers, make a pinhole projector. It does NOT mean looking at the sun through a pinhole, which would damage your eyes. Also, you can make your own to fit on a telescope – check out NASA’s Eclipse page on how to do this.

More Eclipse Fun

So are your kids now fascinated by the sun, moon, and Earth and want to geek out over all things ecliptic? NASA’s Total Solar Eclipse website has some great ideas and is a fantastic place to start.

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