On Monday afternoon, August 21, The Great American Eclipse takes center stage across the United States, including Southwest Florida. To view this amazing celestial event, the Bay Oaks Recreation Center will host an Eclipse Program.
“The kids will color and learn all about the eclipse,” said Danielle Felton, program coordinator for active adults and fitness. “We have safety glasses, and children and adults are welcome. Meet in front of the Bay Oaks Recreation Center at 2:30 p.m.” “The program will last roughly one hour, as it will be hot,” says Sean DePalma, Director of Parks & Recreation for the Town of Fort Myers Beach. “We have special material to teach the children about the science part of the eclipse, so they will have a better understanding as they view it.”
Sean explained that Bay Oaks is altering its after-school program pick-up time. “We don’t want kids waiting outside and getting so curious they try to view the eclipse without safety measures. We are initiating science-based programs into our extra-curricular activities so we can develop a Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) concept, and this is the start of that.”
This will be the first total solar eclipse to traverse diagonally across the United States in 99 years. The last total US eclipse was in 1979, with the last visible in Florida in 1970. In Fort Myers Beach, the eclipse will begin at 1:21 p.m. and reach its peak at 2:53 p.m. when the moon will cover 82% of the Sun, then gradually peals back until ending at 4:16 p.m., with coverage resembling a dark cloudy day. A solar eclipse happens on Earth roughly every 18 months, so the average person may only experience this a few times in their life.
But there is danger, as you can severely damage your eyes or go blind unless you view it with protective gear. The easiest way to watch is with “eclipse glasses” that carry the designation ISO12312-2 that provides safe filtering. Even with these, however, do not stare at the eclipse continuously for more than 3 minutes at any time, and only intermittently throughout the display.
The following are unsafe: dark sunglasses, neutral density or polarizing filters, smoked glass, unexposed or exposed film, CDs, DVDs, or anything without the ISO number; for additional information, see eclipse2017.nasa.gov. Viewed safely, The Great American Eclipse can be the sight of a century!