New Life for Old Eclipse Glasses

by Elizabeth Hood

This past August, people across the United States were thrilled to witness one ofnature’s most breath-taking spectacles – a total eclipse of the sun. More people than ever before, including millions of American children, were able to enjoy this unforgettable celestial event safely because of the wide availability of protective eclipse glasses. Millions of eclipse glasses were distributed throughout the United States. But what happened to them?

The SETI Institute shares the excitement of exploring our universe with people of all ages, and knows the importance of cultivating curiosity and fostering STEM education for future scientists. When we heard Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) announce a program to redistribute lightly-used eclipse glasses to schools in developing countries, we knew we had to be a part of it. The AWB motto – “One People, One Community, One Sky” – aligns closely with SETI’s own mission to explore, understand, and explain the origin and nature of life in the universe. We are proud to do our part in making the tools of exploration and discovery available to the wider public, and our scientists, donors, fans, friends and family took up the call to donate their eclipse glasses with enthusiasm!

The next total solar eclipse that will be visible from the United States won’t take place until April 8, 2024 where the path of totality will include Mexico, the Central United States and Eastern Canada. In the meantime, on July 2, 2019 there will be an eclipse visible from Argentina, Chile and the South Pacific, on December 14, 2020 another will be visible from Argentina, Chile, the South Pacific and the South Atlantic, and on December 4, 2021 an eclipse will be seen in totality from Antarctica. 

We send off our collection of eclipse glasses with the hope that they will bring delight to children around the world discovering the wonder of astronomy. The SETI Institute thanks all those who contributed, and we hope your support continues as SETI carries on its mission to understand the universe and share that knowledge and passion for discovery with the community.