Eclipse glasses — photo by Jordan Sellergren
The special glasses that allowed people to safely view to solar eclipse became mostly useless in Iowa at approximately 3 p.m. on Aug. 21, but that doesn’t mean those glasses can’t be used elsewhere. Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is collecting eclipse glasses to distribute in schools in Asia and South America, where eclipses will be visible in 2019.
So far, the public response to the program has been overwhelming, according to Andrew Fazekas.
“We’ve already received over half a million glasses, and they still keep pouring in,” said Fazekas, the communication manager for AWB. “We were shocked, amazed and humbled by the response.”
Formed in 2007, AWB is a California-based nonprofit that provides resources for science education to schools around the world and seeks to promote understanding between peoples on the basis of a shared interest in the night sky.
“On any clear night, in a dark sky, you can see the universe laid before you. It’s very humbling, actually. You start to understand that we are all together on this one very small blue dot,” Fazekas said. “AWB has pursued projects that break down the borders — cultural borders, geographical borders — and bringing people together, sharing their activities with each other.”
But it was a daytime phenomenon that is the focus for the latest AWB programs.
“We’re trying to advantage of the [Aug. 21] eclipse as an educational event. It’s a wonderful opportunity to engage educators and children, who saw this event. In many places it was seen by children attending the first day of the new school year,” Fazekas said.
“We want to help educators use the excitement that the eclipse brought to their students to get them to start exploring science. The solar eclipse can be a jumping off point in STEM education.”
AWB also wants to make sure those opportunities are available to kids outside the United States. The donated glasses will allow students in Asia and South American to experience the same sort of excitement their U.S. counterparts did during the solar eclipse.
There are over 950 locations nationwide accepting donations of eclipse glasses as part of the AWB program. Locally, people can drop off their glasses at the Iowa City Public Library, the main branch of the Cedar Rapids Public Library, the North Liberty Community Library and Electric Beach Tanning Salon in Coralville.