Solar Eclipse in Tucson: What You Need to Know

solar eclipse tucson

Exciting times in the USA - a total Solar Eclipse will cross our country on Monday, August 21, 2017!

Are your kids asking questions? Would you like to get a quick overview about eclipses and what it will look like here in Tucson?

Shipherd Reed Flandrau
Shipherd Reed

We're pleased to bring you a helpful Q&A with Shipherd Reed, Associate Director of Communications at Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium. Feel free to read this aloud to your kids so that they can get the inside scoop on this week's thrilling natural phenomenon.

Solar Eclipse in Tucson Q & A

Q. What exactly is a solar eclipse?

A. A solar eclipse happens when the moon, which orbits the Earth, moves in between the Earth and the Sun and blocks our view of the Sun. A total solar eclipse happens when the moon completely covers the face of the sun from the perspective of someplace on the surface of the Earth.

Q. How often do solar eclipses happen?

A. Partial solar eclipses happen about once a year somewhere on the surface of the Earth. Total solar eclipses are less frequent, but still not uncommon. However, this one is different because of where the total solar eclipse will happen. It is quite rare for a total solar eclipse to cross the United States. There has not been a total solar eclipse that crossed the USA since 1918. The strip of shadow where people will see the total solar eclipse as it moves across the USA from West to East is called the "path of totality."

Q. Will the sky look different on Monday?

A. We will only see a partial solar eclipse here in Tucson. At the peak of the eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017, 60% of the face of the sun will be covered by the moon. It will appear as a crescent sun. (Remember not to look at it unless you have solar viewing glasses!) The light from the sun will dim, as it does when a cloud passes in front of the sun, but it will not grow dark. For people viewing the eclipse from the "path of totality," the sky will go dark and it will be like twilight just after the sun sets.

Q. What time will the solar eclipse be viewable in Tucson?

A. Here in Tucson, the partial eclipse will start at 9:16am, it will peak at 10:36am, and it will end completely at 12:03pm. The best time to view the eclipse in Tucson will be between 10:15am and 10:45am.

Q. What kind of glasses do I need to view the eclipse?

A. Looking directly at the sun is dangerous - don't do it! You can safely view the eclipse using "solar viewing glasses," which are available for purchase for $5/pair at Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium. One size fits all. You can also view the "crescent sun" shadow using a pinhole viewer.

Q. Do you have any other safety tips for viewing and enjoying the eclipse?

A. Use solar viewing glasses! You can also view the "crescent sun" shadow using a pinhole viewer that you can make with cardboard or paper. See below for an opportunity to build your own pinhole viewer this weekend.

Solar Eclipse Weekend at Flandrau Science Center

Flandrau Science Center Planetarium Tucson

Flandrau Science Center is celebrating and educating all weekend long!

Flandrau, which is located on the campus of the University of Arizona, will have special planetarium shows from Friday through Sunday that will answer all of your eclipse questions: What is a solar eclipse? How often do they happen? How do we view them safely?

There will also be “mini-talks” about the solar eclipse after kid-friendly planetarium shows.

Before or after a planetarium show, visitors can enjoy eclipse activities that are fun for the whole family. One great way to view a solar eclipse is a Pinhole Viewer Box. During Solar Eclipse Weekend, Flandrau will have all the supplies and instructions you need to build your own Pinhole Viewer and decorate it with cool colors and designs. They will also have handouts available that show the map of the “path of totality” and explain the eclipse and how to view it safely. Eclipse activities will be available during regular hours on Friday (9:00am-10:00pm), Saturday (10:00am-10:00pm), and Sunday (12:00pm-5:00pm).

While you’re at the science center, you may also want to see the new gallery of Mars images. The exhibit - named HiRISE: Eye In The Martian Sky - features a selection of incredible high-resolution images of the Martian surface taken by the powerful HiRISE camera. Fun Fact: The University of Arizona built the camera and every image from HiRISE is sent FIRST to U of A for processing!

Flandrau admission (includes one (1) planetarium show) is $16 for adults, $12 for children. You can purchase admission to additional planetarium shows separately: $8/adult, $6/child.

Where to See the Solar Eclipse in Tucson

A number of libraries, bookstores, and educational facilities are offering solar eclipse viewing parties and opportunities. See below for locations, times, and admission fees.

Unless otherwise noted, all of the below events will take place on Monday, August 21, 2017.

  • Location: 7800 N. Schisler Dr.
  • Time: 9:00am-11:00am
  • Event Description: Short presentation about solar eclipses and optical devices. Make your own pinhole viewer. Use solar glasses to view the eclipse.
  • Admission: Free

Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium

  • Location: 1601 E. University Blvd., Tucson
  • Time: 9:00am-12:00pm
  • Event Description: In collaboration with the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab, the UA’s Steward Observatory, and the UA College of Optical Sciences, Flandrau will host a Solar Eclipse Viewing Event on the UA Mall in front of Flandrau. Solar telescopes and information about the eclipse will be available for the public. In addition, Spanish-speaking graduate students from the astronomy program at the UA’s Steward Observatory will be available to help guide the viewing experience.
  • Admission: On the morning of the eclipse, admission to Flandrau will be free to the public from 9am to 12noon.
  • Note: August 21 is the first day of classes at UA so parking will be limited and traffic will be heavy. Flandrau is a short walk from Tucson’s Sun Link Streetcar line.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

  • Location: 2021 N. Kinney Rd., Tucson
  • Time: 9:00am-12:00pm
  • Event Description: View this wonder of the sky through our 8-inch Celestron telescope on Monday, August 21, from 9:16 a.m. to 12:03 p.m. on our front patio. This is something you won't want to miss! You'll have to wait until April 8, 2024, to see the next partial solar eclipse in the Tucson region.
  • Admission: $20.50/adult, $18.50/senior (65+), $8/child (ages 3-12), Free for children 3 and under

Valencia Library

  • Location: 202 W. Valencia Rd., Tucson
  • Time: 9:00am-12:00pm
  • Event Description: Solar glasses for library use. Enjoy a moon pie.
  • Admission: Free

Murphy-Wilmot Library

  • Location: 530 N. Wilmot Rd, Tucson
  • Time: 9:00am-2:00pm
  • Event Description: Free safety glasses for library use, make your own box projector, live stream from NASA
  • Admission: Free

Oro Valley Public Library

  • Location: 1305 W. Naranja Dr., Oro Valley
  • Time: 9:30am-11:30am
  • Event Description: Solar glasses will be available for use.
  • Cost: Free

Quincie Douglas Library

  • Location: 1585 E. 36th St., Tucson
  • Time: 10:00am-1:00pm
  • Event Description: Use solar glasses and pinhole projectors to safely view the eclipse.
  • Cost: Free

Santa Rosa Library

  • Location: 1075 S. 10th Ave., Tucson
  • Time: 10:30am-11:00am
  • Event Description: Use solar glasses. Learn how to make a pinhole viewer.
  • Cost: Free

Dairy Queen Celebrates Total Solar Eclipse

  • Location: There are 14 Dairy Queens in the greater Tucson area. Call to inquire if the one near you is participating.
  • Event Description: Buy one Blizzard treat at regular price and get one of equal or lesser value for 99 cents for a limited time at participating U.S. locations.
  • Note: The BOGO offer, available through Sunday, September 3, is also a nod to the unofficial end of summer.


Will you watch the solar eclipse in Tucson? If you bought solar glasses, where did you purchase them?

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