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Thursday, June 28, 2012

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Doing it right: Students at Hiyoshidai Elementary School in Tomisato, Chiba Prefecture, watch a solar eclipse May 21. KYODO

Eclipse glasses will find new users in Samoa

Jiji

Protective glasses used to observe the solar eclipse in Japan last month will find new users in the South Pacific island state of Samoa, where a partial solar eclipse will be visible Nov. 14.

"I hope that observing it will make more students want to choose a scientific career," said Jinitsu Niinuma, who volunteers helping to train teachers and candidates at National University of Samoa. "Anybody will be interested in anything that happens only rarely."

Niinuma, 61, a junior high school science teacher for more than 30 years in Sendai, has already reached his target of collecting more than 1,000 pairs of the special glasses from across Japan.

The target was achieved after the Sendai Astronomical Observatory issued a call for the glasses on the Internet.

He started volunteering at the Samoan university in January 2011 as part of a program under the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

One of the reasons Niinuma chose Samoa was that the partial solar eclipse will be visible there.

With a population of around 180,000, Samoa has around 240 schools.

Science laboratories and basic equipment can be found at an increasing number of them, but many other items have not been introduced, including protective glasses for observing solar eclipses.

A major headache is the lack of science teachers who can advise students about what to do and what not to do during an eclipse, according to Niinuma. If done incorrectly, observing the phenomenon can cause eye damage.

On June 6, when the planet Venus moved across the face of the sun, Niinuma gathered science teachers and students to teach them appropriate observation methods.

"The problem was that they were so impressed they wanted to look at the sun for too long," he said.

In September, Niinuma will bring together teachers from different schools to teach them how to observe the partial solar eclipse.

That is also when he will distribute the protective glasses from Japan.

As teachers and students become enthralled, there is no doubt that children will be struck by the mystery and the beauty of the eclipse, Niinuma said.

"I hope some of them will get to investigate it on their own," he said.



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