campus news

UB distributes over 12,000 NSF eclipse glasses to local students

A bunch of eclipse glasses spread in a fan shape.

The National Science Foundation provided UB chemistry professor Steven Ray with more than 12,000 eclipse glasses, like these, to distribute to local schools and community centers. Photo: Steven Ray


Published March 28, 2024

A portrait of Steven Ray, with the department of chemistry, in a research lab in Natural Sciences Complex, taken in August 2022. Photographer: Douglas Levere.
“UB is at the center of research and scholarship in Western New York, so we were a natural partner for the NSF on this kind of outreach effort. ”
Steven Ray, associate professor
Department of Chemistry

Thousands of Western New York kids will safely view next month’s total solar eclipse thanks to a collaboration between UB and the National Science Foundation. 

Steven Ray, associate professor of chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences, has helped distribute 12,500 pairs of eclipse glasses to local school districts and community centers ahead of the April 8 eclipse. The glasses were provided by the NSF for free and come with safety instructions.

“It’s a great opportunity to help kids enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience of being in the path of totality,” Ray says. “Being able to provide this at no cost to schools and parents is a big plus.”

The effort is part of the NSF’s plan to make 1 million eclipse glasses available to the public prior to April 8. In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, the foundation is distributing glasses nationwide, as well as at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on the day of the eclipse.

Ray, who is currently principal investigator on two NSF grants related to plasma physics and mass spectrometry, applied for a small grant to distribute 12,000 of those glasses. 

“UB is at the center of research and scholarship in Western New York, so we were a natural partner for the NSF on this kind of outreach effort,” he says.

Ray worked with the Western Region of the New York State Parent Teacher Association, as well as the Buffalo Community PTA, to get the glasses into the hands of school officials. The glasses have been distributed to the Lackawanna, Orchard Park, Pembroke and Sweet Home school districts; Erie 1 BOCES; CHC Learning Center; as well as the Elmwood Village, Enterprise, Global Concepts, Persistence Preparatory Academy, Reach Academy, Buffalo Commons, West Buffalo, King Center, Buffalo United and Tapestry charter schools. Glasses have also been given to Delavan Grider Community Center and Resource Council of Western New York. 

With many school districts canceling classes on the day of the eclipse, it’s likely students will be sent home with the glasses. 

“I hope students get a sense of wonder from the eclipse and appreciate that science can predict exactly when it’s going to happen and explain why it’s happening,” Ray says. “This event is a great opportunity to instill a love of science in the next generation. Students sometimes view science as something of a dry subject, but here we can show them that it has real implications on their everyday lives.”

Specialized glasses, like those provided by the NSF, are required to safely view the eclipse. Glasses can be removed only during totality, the brief period when the moon completely blocks the sun.

Western New York will experience totality for over 3 minutes, from 3:18 to 3:21 p.m., but UB ophthalmologists suggest only removing your glasses during the two minutes of peak totality, which will last from about 3:19 to 3:21 p.m.