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When You *Can't* Look at the Sun: Exploring the Eclipse Through Touch & Sound


At the Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library, we’re always discovering new ways for patrons with all kinds of vision to explore information. Often, concepts that the average person thinks are “visual” are, in reality, just spatial: people who learn non-visually can access them through hearing, touch, and narrative. As New Yorkers prepare for the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21, here are a few ways to experience this rare event and other celestial phenomena in an accessible way.

Eclipse Soundscapes icon

Excitingly, there’s a new app and accompanying website from NASA makes the eclipse accessible through textual description. Here’s a summary from the Eclipse Soundscapes site:

On August 21, 2017, millions of people will view a total solar eclipse as it passes through the United States. However, for the visually impaired, or others who are unable to see the eclipse with their own eyes, the Eclipse Soundscapes Project delivers a multisensory experience of this exciting celestial event. The project, from NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium, will include audio descriptions of the eclipse in real time, recordings of the changing environmental sounds during the eclipse, and an interactive “rumble map” app that will allow users to visualize the eclipse through touch.

Check out to learn more.

Also, ACB Radio, a project of the American Council of the Blind, will be offering live audio description of the eclipse.

Our reference collection features tactile graphics from NASA depicting elements of the solar eclipse, as well as a tactile map that shows the eclipse’s path of totality across the United States.

 Getting a feel for eclipses


Tactile eclipse book inside page

We also have twin view or braille books—some with tactile graphics—on the topic of astronomy, including Touch the Stars; Galaxies; Galaxies, Galaxies!;  Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book; and Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos.

Touch the Stars cover


 Star Stuff Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos

If you’re keen to learn more about the history of how human beings have understood eclipses, a reader recommends a title in our Digital Talking Book and BARD collection: Sun, Moon, Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses, from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets by Tyler Nordgren (DB87308).


Join us on Saturday, August 19 from 11 AM to 12 PM in the community room for a brief exploration of the Eclipse Soundscapes app, along with NASA’s tactile graphics. Just call (212) 621-0627 or email to register.


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

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