Rochester Museum And Science Center

How to Predict Eclipses (Homeschool astronomy for ages 12 and older)

How to Predict Eclipses (Homeschool astronomy for ages 12-16)
Course #T889

Three 90-minute sessions, all on Wednesdays from 9:30 to 11:00am
December 4, 11, 18

Instructors: Steve Fentress, Planetarium Director, and Paul Krupniski, Strasenburgh Planetarium school show presenter
Location: Strasenburgh Planetarium lobby and Star Theater
657 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607
Fee: $70, includes paper handouts and a 3-ring binder

"How to Predict Eclipses" is our fifth course for parents and students around 12 to 16 years old who want a course that offers substance and challenge and uses the unique capabilities of the Strasenburgh Planetarium!

Sun, Moon, Earth, shadows, motions, orbits...these things are mysterious and obscure to many people. But this course offers you the power to understand and predict the celestial motions that produce eclipses! You may be surprised at how easy the math is. You need to be able to multiply and divide seven-digit numbers (a calculator is just fine for that) and plot events on a timeline. The Rochester area has some eclipses coming up: lunar eclipses in April 2014 and April 2015; a partial solar eclipse in 2017; and a total solar eclipse in 2024. This course shows you the patterns behind these dates, offers you a solid understanding of motions in the Earth-Moon-Sun system, and prepares you for maximum enjoyment and appreciation of eclipses you will see in coming years.


How to enroll

Please phone (585) 697-1942 and ask for Course T889, “How to Predict Eclipses.” You'll need: child's first name, last name, age and birthdate; parents' name, address, parent’s e-mail and daytime phone, and payment information (credit card, check or cash accepted). Our primary way of communicating about the course will be by e-mail.



Course description
We will divide our time between activity tables in the Planetarium lobby (which will be reserved for us) and the ideal indoor sky of the Star Theater. Topics and activities will include:
  • The paths of the sun and moon across the sky (visualized on the Planetarium dome and on a paper chart)
  • Various measurements of the lunar month and the year
  • The requirements for an eclipse to occur; motions of the Sun, the Moon and the nodes of the Moon’s orbit
  • The relation between solar and lunar eclipses
  • The saros cycle, a key pattern for predicting eclipses
  • What to watch for during an eclipse
  • How to view the Sun safely, during an eclipse or at any other time
Enrollment expectations
Enrollment deadline 4pm Monday, December 4, 2013. Attendance at all three sessions is expected to gain maximum benefit from this course. Enrollment in previous homeschool courses at the Planetarium is *not* required. Minimum enrollment 12, maximum 25. If minimum is not reached by the deadline, the course may be cancelled with full refunds. No refunds or makeups for missed sessions unless it is RMSC's fault. Parents are welcome at all sessions and may work alongside their students or sit at the side, as they wish. Parents are responsible for administering all needed medications. Parents are responsible for arranging non-distracting alternate activities for siblings who come along but are not enrolled.
Mathematical skills expected
  • Multiply and divide seven-digit numbers (using a calculator or computer you bring with you)
  • Given a table of events and times, plot a timeline
  • Using a ruler, measure distances in millimeters, centimeters, or inches

To enroll, phone (585) 697-1942. For questions about content of the course, e-mail Planetarium Director Steve Fentress at