Back to Top

The Great American Eclipse of 2017

On August 21st, 2017 we will have the exciting opportunity to view the first total solar eclipse visible across the continuous United States since 1979. To help celebrate the Lawrence Public Library and KU are providing a number of different opportunities to learn about and then enjoy viewing the eclipse together.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, blocking the sun out entirely. The eclipse on August 21st will begin around 11:40 am and will reach it’s peak (with the moon covering the greatest amount of the sun) at about 1:07 pm. Lawrence is slightly outside the “path of totality,” or the region across the U.S. in which the sun will appear to be completely covered by the moon, but we are near enough to the path that less than 1% of the sun will remain visible.


 (photo courtesy of

Join in!

All are invited to learn more about this exciting event at 4:30p m on August 20th at the library’s “The Great American Eclipse of 2017” program. Professors from KU’s Physics and Astronomy Department will be shedding light on the science and significance of this year’s big solar event.

Then, on Monday August 21st from 11:30-1:30 pm, join fellow members of your community at the Shenk Recreational Sports Complex for “The Eclipse at KU.” This will be a family-friendly event featuring science and art activities, telescope viewing with astronomers, and food trucks.

How can I get glasses to view the eclipse?

We are happy to report that the Lawrence Public Library is one of thousands of libraries around the country to receive free solar iewing glasses thanks to  STAR Library Network – STEM Learning in Libraries and the Space Science Institute. Starting on Monday, August 7th, we will begin handing out the glasses at the Welcome Desk. As the number of glasses is limited, each person will be able to take a maximum of two.

Additional glasses will be available at the library’s “The Great American Eclipse of 2017” program at 4:30 on August 20th, and at KU’s viewing party during the eclipse itself.

What if I don’t have glasses or don’t have enough for my entire family?

There are a variety of fun ways that you can safely view the eclipse even without special glasses, and many of them are completely free. Two ideas you might want to try out are creating your own pinhole camera (you can find easy-to-follow instructions provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory here,) or simply using a colander and a piece of white paper, cloth, or light-colored wall as in the picture below.

John Lord Colander Action
(photo courtesy of John Lord)

Safety First

Please do remember that it is not safe to look at the sun directly unless you are using solar glasses, or solar viewers specifically created for such activities. Regular sunglasses will not be sufficient. For more detailed information check out NASA’s site on viewing safety.

What happens if it’s overcast?

We’ll all be keeping our fingers crossed for a bright, sunny day on August 21st, but in case of cloud cover NASA will be streaming the event online. it can be viewed at NASA’s official eclipse site, as well as through facebook and youtube.

One Comment

  1. Jenny Muller says:

    LPL– thanks so much for the glasses! We raced up to Lincoln and saw full totality yesterday and it was so beautiful.

    Any chance you’d consider putting a deposit in the library for people to drop off their used glasses for recycling? Astronomers Without Borders is collecting them for school kids in Asia and South America for next year’s eclipse.