Community members learn solar eclipse eye safety tips during nearby event

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The spectrometers each showed a color representing a different element that makes up the surface of the sun.

The front of the Lynnwood Library featured an exciting scene on Sunday as solar scientists set up telescope-sized spectrometers and interactive displays to teach community members about the sun and about the upcoming solar eclipse.

People across the United States are gearing up for the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

Roger Kennedy calibrates a spectrometer outside the Lynnwood Library.

Roger and Linda Kennedy, two solar scientists based out of New Mexico, will be visiting several Sno-Isle libraries this summer to tell community members about the event, as well as give some tips for viewing the eclipse.

For Jennifer Kauppila of Seattle, it seemed like a good event to share with her kids. She said she remembers seeing a total solar eclipse as a kid in the 70s.

“Since then, I have found anything seen through a telescope or microscope fascinating,” she said.

Attendees of all ages were invited to look through the spectrometers. Linda Kennedy (right) helps.

So it seemed worth it to drive up from Seattle to hear the Kennedy’s speak in Lynnwood, she said. Her older son, Noah, is just starting to build an interest in space. He just saw his first shooting star earlier this summer during camp, he said.

“I think it’s cool,” he said.

Kauppila said she remembered being told special ways to view the eclipse, so she wanted to bring her kids to the presentation so they knew how to be safe, too.

The eclipse will reach 100 percent just south of Portland, Oregon. In southern Snohomish County, it should be about 97 percent eclipsed, Kennedy said.

Even during the maximum eclipse, spectators should not look directly at the sun, or use binoculars, telescopes or cameras without special filters, Roger Kennedy said.

“You’ll be permanently blinded within 10 seconds,” he said.

Though it will get dark outside, spectators should not be complacent. The sun will not be completely blocked in our area, and sun rays will be damaging. Sunglasses are not strong enough to block out the intensity of the light, Kennedy said.

Young attendees try out their new solar glasses.

However, spectators can still view the eclipse using special solar glasses, or photograph it using certain camera lens filters. Welding shields rated at 14 or above will also protect your eyes, he said.

For Roger Kennedy, his passion for the sun is much deeper than just waiting for the next major event. On Sunday, the Kennedys had set up three solar spectrometers and displays to teach community members how scientists study the sun.

Each spectrometer was pointed in a different direction and calibrated to show the color of a specific element burning in the sun. The sun is made up of 66 elements, Roger Kennedy said, and each shows up as a different color on the spectrometer.

Roger Kennedy prepares to give his presentation as a crowd grows.

Studying the sun gives scientists an understanding of how other stars work, how fusion works and even how planets work, he said.

At the end of the presentation, young attendees were invited inside the library to make beaded bracelets that will change colors in sunlight. All attendees were also given a pair of solar glasses to view the eclipse on Aug. 21.

The Kennedys will visit several other local libraries this summer to give similar presentations — they are listed below:

Lynnwood Library
Sunday, July 23, 1 p.m.

Mukilteo Library
Monday, July 31, 2 p.m.

Edmonds Library
Monday, Aug. 7, 1 p.m.

Brier Library
Friday, Aug. 11, 1 p.m.

Mill Creek Library
Sunday, Aug. 13, 1 p.m.

Mariner Library
Monday, Aug. 21, 10 a.m.
*Museum of Flight, “Suited for Space” at 10:30, registration required

Sno-Isle Libraries has also created a solar eclipse resource page (http://bit.ly/SILeclipse) with information about the coming solar eclipse, the sun and other astronomical tidbits.

–Story and photos by Natalie Covate

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