Solar Eclipse Celebration

Monday, August 21, 12-5 p.m.

Join us in Duke Gardens on Aug. 21 to observe a partial eclipse of the sun, and explore with FREE hands-on activities for visitors of all ages! This is a rare event and a great opportunity to explore outer-space-sized science in your own back yard. Parking fees ($2 per hour) apply in Duke Gardens lots. Our drop-in Solar Eclipse Celebration will run from noon to 5 p.m. Feel free to come when you can and stay as long as you like. Contact GardensEclipse@duke.edu for more information.

Parking update (1:10 p.m.):

All Duke Gardens and overflow lots are full. Please scroll down for information about public transportation options.

Important Note:

Duke Gardens will have a very limited number of eclipse-viewing glasses to give away to participants during the event. No glasses will be available before noon. We cannot guarantee that we will have enough glasses for all participants, and we will be asking families and groups to share.We will also have a DIY station to build eclipse projectors from cardboard boxes & other materials (limited supplies, so please bring a cereal box or larger box if you have one). Please also read NASA's guidelines regarding safety glasses.

Solar Eclipse

What does a solar eclipse have to do with gardening?

Without the sun, there would be no life on Earth’s surface. Most plants depend directly on sunlight to get their energy to live. People are further along the food chain, but all of the energy in our food can be traced back to the sun. The arrangement of our solar system impacts many things on Earth, including the amount of sunlight, the seasons, the tides, and more. All of these characteristics of Earth impact the lives of plants, people and other living things. A solar eclipse is an exciting opportunity to see the important details of our solar system in action.

What is the Duke Gardens Solar Eclipse Celebration?

We will have observation stations in the garden to facilitate safe viewing of the eclipse, try out different methods of observation, and contribute to citizen science by measuring eclipse conditions.  The welcome and information table will be located in front of the Doris Duke Center. Activities will take place in and around the Doris Duke Center, with additional viewing stations on the South Lawn (view Duke Gardens map).

Inside the Doris Duke Center we’ll have experiments, crafts, a live stream of the total eclipse, and other activities to explore astronomy and Earth sciences. What can an eclipse tell us about our solar system? How does the sun affect life on Earth? What does art have to do with space? We’ll explore these questions and more. Activities will be provided for community members of all ages, from adults to toddlers.

The Solar Eclipse Celebration will proceed rain or shine. Even if the eclipse isn’t directly visible, we’ll still have many ways to explore it, including a live stream or video of it elsewhere.

Groups are welcome to attend the Solar Eclipse Celebration. Please contact GardensEclipse@duke.edu to coordinate your group’s visit.

In partnership with the East Durham Children’s Initiative’s STEAM programming, we’re providing free transportation for families in east Durham.

Why are we celebrating?

This is a rare event! The last total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States happened in 1979, and the next one won’t be until 2024. A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, creating a shadow on Earth. Western North Carolina will experience a total solar eclipse, when the moon completely blocks the sun. People in other parts of the state will be able to see a partial solar eclipse. Because of the constantly changing orbits of the Earth around the sun and the moon around the Earth, each eclipse happens in a different place. The next total solar eclipse won’t be visible from North Carolina. 

At Duke Gardens, the August 21 eclipse will begin at 1:15 p.m. and end at 4:05 p.m. At its peak (2:44 p.m.), 93% of the sun will be covered by the moon. Even at that point, it will not be safe to look directly at the sun.

Our Solar Eclipse Celebration will offer safe ways to observe the eclipse. We’ll also explore how eclipses happen, why they’re rare, what they have to do with plants and people, and more. 

This time-lapse video of a partial solar eclipse shows a view similar to what we might see in Durham on August 21. As we await this unusual event, you can visit NASA’s eclipse website for more information.

An important note about safety

Please remember that it’s never safe to look directly at the sun, and a partial solar eclipse is no exception. At Duke Gardens, we will provide safe options to observe this exciting eclipse. For more information, please visit the American Astronomical Society's page on safe solar viewing.

Getting here

Please see our "getting here" page for directions and information about buses that stop near Duke Gardens. Parking will be limited, and there is a fee (info here), so we urge attendees to consider carpools and public transportation, or riding bikes to the celebration. When you arrive, please head to our welcome and information tent in front of the Doris Duke Center to receive maps of activities throughout the Gardens.

Related articles

Plant responses to the solar eclipse trigger inquiry (Columbia Star, S.C.)

See how the solar eclipse will look from anywhere in the U.S. (Time magazine)

Build your own DIY projector from paper plates (New York Times science section via Facebook)