When the Sun Disappears: Exploring the Solar Eclipse With Dr. Moiya McTier - Atlas Obscura Experiences

When the Sun Disappears: Exploring the Solar Eclipse With Dr. Moiya McTier

4 sessions
$75 per person
See Dates
$75 per person
$75 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do


This course has already started! However, you can still join if you’d like to (and we hope you will!). Students enrolling after the course start date and time will have access to a recording of the first session (which will be emailed to participants within 72 hours) as well as the option to attend remaining sessions live. Please select the “Join Late” ticket type to enroll after the course has begun. 


In this four-part lecture series leading up to the Great American Eclipse, explore the science and mythology of solar eclipses through time. 

Course Description

For thousands of years, humans have feared and revered the solar eclipse. The celestial event has made it into pop music, shaped spiritual beliefs and scientific research alike, and sparked traditions across the globe. On April 8, 2024, the Great American Eclipse will pass over Mexico, Canada, and the U.S., with countless locations able to witness the total solar eclipse, unimpeded—including in Hot Springs, Arkansas, at Atlas Obscura’s own Ecliptic Festival. No matter where you are when it happens, understanding the science, history, and mythology of eclipses will give you a deeper appreciation of the dramatic dimming of the sun this year. After our time together, you’ll not only be prepared to safely view the eclipse this April, but also to understand what’s happening in real time, and of course, to have some topical and fascinating cocktail party chatter leading up to the big event. 

Syllabus At A Glance

This course includes four total sessions, each lasting 1.5 hours on four consecutive Thursdays beginning February 15.

Session 1 (Thursday, 2/15, 8-9:30 PM ET): Making the Sun and the Moon

The eclipses we see are dances between three astronomical bodies: the Earth, the sun, and the moon. This first lecture will teach you how each one formed, and why they’re sticking around each other.

Session 2 (Thursday, 2/22, 8-9:30 PM ET): An Eclipse is Born

We’ll cover questions like: What’s the difference between solar and lunar eclipses? Why don’t eclipses happen every month? And—will we always have eclipses? 

Session 3 (Thursday, 2/29, 8-9:30 PM ET): Eclipse Myths

We’ll look at several explanations for eclipses rooted in mythology from around the world, and the rituals different cultures have developed in response to the celestial drama.

Session 4 (Thursday, 3/7, 8-9:30 PM ET): Eclipse Science

In our final session, we’ll look at the research made possible by eclipses, including work in some fields that may surprise you. 

Between Sessions

Dr. Moiya McTier will provide some suggested materials (videos, aritcles, etc) for students who wish to delve deeper into material touched on during class.

Pricing Options

This course is available at three ticket prices. This tiered pricing model is designed to increase access for a wider range of students as well as to support our instructors. In addition to tiered tickets, we offer a limited number of no-pay spots for students who would not otherwise be able to take this course. No-pay spots are selected via a randomized drawing two weeks before each section begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page.

Community Guidelines for Students

Please take a moment to review our community guidelines for students, which aim to share our classroom ethos and help set the stage for the best possible learning experience.

Atlas Obscura Online Courses

Atlas Obscura Courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses. For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.

Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura created the definitive community-driven guide to incredible places across the planet and is now an award-winning company that shares the world’s hidden wonders in person and online.

Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access all sessions of your course via Zoom.

About Your Instructor
Dr. Moiya McTier
Dr. Moiya McTier

Dr. Moiya McTier is an astrophysicist, folklorist, and science communicator. Moiya was the first person to double major in astrophysics and folklore at Harvard and the first Black woman to earn an astronomy PhD from Columbia University. In her astronomy research, Moiya specialized in the habitability of planets and the motion of stars around the galaxy.

Moiya has given hundreds of talks about science and worldbuilding, designed interactive exhibits for the New York Hall of Science, and consulted with companies like PBS and Disney on their fictional worlds. After leading worldbuilding workshops around the world, Moiya started a podcast called Exolore, where she builds fictional worlds with expert guests, interviews professional worldbuilders, and reviews the merits of worlds that have already been built. Moiya also co-hosts Fate & Fabled, a youtube show about mythology for PBS and her own podcast about astronomy called Pale Blue Pod. Her first published book, THE MILKY WAY: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy, artfully wove science, folklore, and fiction and was named one of Publishers Weekly's best books of 2022.

What Else You Should Know

This lecture series is designed so students can participate live or watch a recording of each session, after it airs, at a time that is convenient for them. Sessions will take place live over Zoom, with dedicated Q&A segments for students to ask questions via video or chat. Within 72 hours after each session meets, students will receive access to a recording of the live session, which they can watch for up to two weeks after the course concludes.

Instructors may use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors may use this platform to post resources, discussion questions, or assignments. This platform also offers a space for students to connect with one another about course material between sessions.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses and can share transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at experiences@atlasobscura.com if you have any questions, requests, or accessibility needs.

Dates and Availability

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