This summer, the Champaign Public Library is blasting off into space in preparation for the upcoming solar eclipse in August. This will be the first total solar eclipse in 38 years, so it’s worth making a big deal about. To kick off their summer of space, the library launched (pun intended) a NASA exhibit yesterday that will be on display for library-goers throughout the summer.

I had the opportunity to speak with Brittany Michaels, the deputy director of the CPL, about the event and the decision to go with this particular theme for the library’s summer programming. “I think it’s just a really engaging way to get the community talking about something that we can all get really excited about,” Michaels says, “there’s a lot of curiosity and excitement about the solar eclipse.” Yesterday’s launch was the first opportunity for the community to see the collection of NASA items that the library has on display, and they provided a self-guided tour for those who would like to find all 19 artifacts throughout the building. According to Michaels, one of the standouts in the collection is an actual moon rock obtained on the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. It's a "gem" in the figurative and literal sense, and it’s definitely worth checking out in person to see its various facets.

Here are a few other items you will encounter as you browse the exhibit:

This exhibit is really just the beginning of a summer-long space adventure, including appearances by two speakers. On June 19th, an “eclipse chaser” (who knew this was a thing?) named Andy Jones will be on hand to talk about some of his experiences, as well as provide folks with some tips on how to view the solar eclipse safely. Phil Plait, dubbed “the Bad Astronomer”, is the head writer for Bill Nye Saves the World. He will be at the library on July 11th. Douglass Library is in on the action as well, and will be offering various hands-on projects where kids can build a space lander, create a nebula in a bottle, and more.

Those wanting a full-on immersive eclipse experience should come to the library for their finale event on August 21st from 12-2 p.m., which will be optimal eclipse viewing time, though here in Champaign-Urbana we will not see the total eclipse. There will food, music, eclipse glasses, and an opportunity to view this amazing phenomenon with other members of the community. To add to the mood of the event will be a local Etherphonic Theremin Orchestra. If you, like me, have no idea what those words even mean, then here’s a video to give you an idea:

Orchestra members will be giving eclipse viewers the opportunity to experiment with the theremins to create some space-like sounds of their own (even though space is a vacuum, so there’s not actually sound, but whatever, it still sounds cool).

As Michaels states, this summer’s library theme “allows you to experience (the solar eclipse) with a lot of different contexts, a lot of different ways...whether it’s through DIY projects at Douglass, or reading with your children and logging those hours and learning about the eclipse before we see it.”

For more space-related events this summer, check out the CPL calendar. Visit the main site for library hours and other info.