Imagine you lived before we understood what caused an eclipse. What would you have thought if the sun suddenly went black? Many cultures once believed the sun had been eaten up. The Vietnamese believed a giant frog escaped from it’s master, the Lord of Hahn, and ate the sun. Only after the Lord of Hahn convinces the frog to release the sun does an eclipse end. Similarly in India, the Hindu demon Rahu, planned on drinking the elixir of life. The sun and the moon tattled on Rahu to the god Vishnu. Vishnu caught Rahu drinking the elixir of life and as punishment sliced off the his head before the elixir passed through his throat. The immortal head takes his revenge on the sun and moon by devouring them, but because he has no body, they re-emerge after he swallows them. Today, we now know the eclipse is cause by the alignment of the sun, moon, and earth. I wanted to help my 4yo cousin understand the eclipse so I created a science activity to simplify it.
Construction paper- black and orange
Oil pastels- red, orange, and yellow
White colored pencil
Jar with a circular base or alternative to make circles
Box cutter, or alternative, to make a small thin cut
Step one: Trace a circle onto both the black and orange construction paper (I traced the base of a glass mason jar to draw my circle). Make sure the circle on the orange construction paper has enough room around it to draw the corona (see curiosities for more).
Step two: Draw swirls with a pencil around the orange circle, the swirls represent the corona (the ring of light surrounding the moon during the eclipse).
Step three: Cut out the sun and moon.
Step four: I took a white pencil and lightly drew craters on the moon (obviously you won’t be able to see craters during an eclipse, I drew them on to emphasize that it was the moon). I then used red, orange, and yellow oil pastels to color spirals onto the sun.
Step five: On your sun and moon take a box cutter and make a cut small enough to fit a brad through. Attach the brad.
Step six: Now you have your solar eclipse model! Move it around and watch as a solar eclipse forms.
Corona- the Sun’s outer atmosphere; visible in the umbral shadow during total eclipses of the Sun, appears as a white light surrounding the Sun.
What causes a solar eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon, earth, and sun align, causing the moon to fully or partially block the sun and cast a shadow on the earth.
Why do some places experience a full eclipse and others a partial?
During an eclipse two types of shadows occur on the earth, a smaller umbral shadow and a larger penumbral shadow. Places covered by the umbral shadow experience a total eclipse, and places cover by the penumbral shadow experience a partial eclipse. The penumbral shadow is in places where the moon is not fully in the earth’s path allowing the sun to be partially visible.
Don’t forget to wear your glasses!