Program Group on Public Education at the Time of Solar Eclipses

(Members: Jay M. Pasachoff, Ralph Chou, Julieta Fierro)
The total solar eclipse of 21 June 2001 swept across southern Africa, and provided partial phases for all of Africa south of the Sahara. The Working Group on Eclipses of Division II of the IAU maintained a homepage at that provided links to maps, information about observing eclipses, and information on eye safety at eclipses. Jay Pasachoff lectured about watching eclipses safely at a Professional-Amateur Conference on Solar Eclipses held at Antwerp in November 2000 and at various venues in Zambia in March and June 2001.

In spite of the best efforts of all professionals and educators concerned, confusion reigned about when to look at the eclipse through filters and when directly. The growing popularity of solar viewers of Mylar in eyeglass form has probably contributed to the confusion. We are working with the makers of such glasses and viewers to label the products more clearly, assuming people do not read accompanying instructions. In spite of numerous newspaper interviews, newspapers continued to print incorrect information how to observe eclipses.

Solar filter material was distributed at low cost or no cost to universities in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and representatives of many countries in the zone of partial eclipse were advised on safe observing methods. No eye injuries have been reported, to my knowledge. National liaisons were appointed in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, and they did their best to provide accurate information.

The annular eclipse of 14 December 2001 in Costa Rica provided partial phases from northwestern South America through Central America to all of the United States except for the east. The 10 June 2002 annular eclipse will provide partial phases for viewers in western Asia (including Japan, China, Russia, and Korea) and western Australia and then range across the Pacific Ocean to the western United States and Canada. The 4 December 2002 total eclipse will provide partial phases across all of Africa except its northern rim and, at sunset, western Australia. Information about safe watching of partial phases of eclipses should be widely disseminated in those regions. Maps are available on the Web site given above.

Jay M. Pasachoff, Chair of the Program Group