Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: Noelle.Lemoine @williams.edu
Astronomer contact: eclipse @williams .edu
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., January 7, 2017—Astronomer Jay Pasachoff is busy exciting people about their chance to experience the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse, whose path of totality will sweep across the United States from coast to coast. He is leading an international team of astronomers in preparing scientific observations to study the sun’s outer layer, the solar corona, and also the effect of the eclipse on the Earth’s atmosphere. To attendees of the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Grapevine, Texas, this week, Pasachoff presented a paper about scientific observations of solar eclipses and a second paper about matters of outreach and education at all levels relevant to the eclipse. He also participated in a splinter session on eclipse preparations and in a science-writer’s seminar.
Pasachoff tries to bring across to the general public how exciting it is to be outdoors in the path of totality of a solar eclipse. He stresses that “being even 10 or 100 miles outside the path is like being outside a football stadium, technically ‘at the stadium’ but actually missing seeing the main event.” He would like to convince 300 million Americans from all over the country to join the 12 million people who live within the path of totality for the 2 or so minutes of totality on August 21. (An additional 76 million people live within a 200-mile drive of the path, according to map-maker Michael Zeiler of Santa Fe.)
In a talk Pasachoff delivered to science writers on Saturday, August 7, he described a variety of professional efforts scheduled to observe the eclipse. His own group includes scientists from Slovakia, Greece, and Australia in addition to students and colleagues from the United States. They will study the dynamics of the solar corona and study the frequency of oscillations as seen through special coronal filters, part of testing models of how the corona is heated to millions of degrees. They are linking the shape of the corona, held in place by the magnetic field, to the phase of the sunspot cycle, with potential implications for the next cycle. Prof. Shadia Habbal of the University of Hawaii observes with an international group she calls the Solar Eclipse Sherpas. They use a set of filters in visible and infrared light to study the shape of the corona and its polarization, which reveals the orientation of the solar magnetic field. Prof. Alexander Kosovichev of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, working with Dr. Serge Koutchmy of the Institut of Astrophysics of Paris, also plans to study coronal polarization. Koutchmy has special methods for high-contrast and high-resolution processing of coronal images. Many eclipse astronomers work with the image-processing skills of Prof. Miloslav Druckmuller of Brno, Czech Republic.
Prof. Hugh Hudson and Laura Peticolas of the Space Science Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, are heading a Megamovie project to use thousands of images taken by members of the general public, so-called citizen scientists, to provide an animation of variations in images over the 90 minutes that the Moon’s shadow will take to cross the continental United States. In a separate citizen-science plan, Dr. Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory is planning a Citizen Continental-America Telescope Eclipse Experiment (Citizen CATE), with 60 identical solar telescopes spaced across the path of totality to make an animation of highly calibrated identical images to show coronal dynamics.
A National Science Foundation plane will travel at high altitude to study coronal spectra in the infrared, in a plan led by Drs. Leon Golub and Ed DeLuca of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, with graduate-student Jenna Samra.
Other scientists planning research during totality include Dr. Ulyana Dyudina of Caltech, who is planning to use a new light-sensitive chip that measures polarization pixel-by-pixel; Prof. Brad Schaefer of Louisiana State University, who plans a new version of the light-bending experiment that tested relativity and made Einstein famous; and Prof. Thanasis Economou of the University of Chicago, who plans to make spectra during the eclipse of the solar corona and solar chromosphere, the colorful atmospheric level between the everyday solar surface and the hot corona.
Pasachoff has seen more solar eclipses than anyone ever: the August 21 solar will be his 66th solar eclipse and his 34th total eclipse. He is Chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Solar Eclipses, a joint Working Group of the Solar and the Education/Outreach/Heritage commissions. He is also a member of the Eclipse 2017 Task Force of the American Astronomical Society. Pasachoff is Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College.
His scientific observations at the 2017 total eclipse are sponsored by the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society and the Solar Terrestrial Program of the U.S. National Science Foundation. In addition to his research, he has long worked to spread information about how wonderful it is to observe a total eclipse and how to observe it safely. He is giving papers on such subjects this year not only at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Texas but also at the American Physical Society meeting in Washington, DC, on January 31, and at the American Association of Physics Teachers meeting in Atlanta on February 19, where he is receiving the society’s Richtmyer Memorial Lecture Award. He has arranged a session on the eclipse at the meeting in Boston on February 17 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also speaking at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh on January 29, and the Southern Star event for amateur astronomers at Wildacres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, NC, for Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club on April 29/30. He is arranging an exhibition on eclipse-related art and artifacts at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, for June through August. He is completing articles on the Sun and the eclipse for Scientific American and Nature Astronomy, in addition to providing a Resource Letter on Solar Eclipses for the American Journal of Physics.
Pasachoff is coauthor, with Leon Golub, of a popular book about the Sun: Nearest Star: The Surprising Science of Our Sun, and of a technical book, The Solar Corona. The books will be assigned as part of the reading of a spring-semester course he is giving at Williams College on solar physics, in which the students will have the opportunity to prepare for eclipse observing and to accompany the research team to the eclipse itself. Pasachoff and Golub have prepared a new book, The Sun, for the Science Museum, London, to be published in June. The latest printing of his Peterson Field Guide to the Stars and Planets contains two dozen pages about eclipse observing. Pasachoff is working with PBS’s NOVA to prepare a television show to air two nights after the eclipse.
At the 229th American Astronomical Society meeting, Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, Grapevine, TX:
Thursday, January 5, splinter session, Education and Outreach, organized by Dr. Andrew Fraknoi, 10:00-11:30, San Antonio room 1, Gaylord Texan
Friday, January 6, Jay M. Pasachoff, Daniel B. Seaton, and Vojtech Rusin, 2017, “The solar corona through the sunspot cycle: preparing for the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse,” 229th AAS, January, Grapevine, TX, 325.02, 2:10-2:20, Texas 3
Jay M. Pasachoff, 2017, “Educating the Public about the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse,” 229th AAS, January, Grapevine, TX, 411.03, 10:20-10:30, Dallas 6
Saturday, 7 January, 2:15-2:25, “Yes, You Can Still Do Science During Solar Eclipses,” in the Seminar for Science Writers: The August 2017 All-American Solar Eclipse, organized by Dr. Rick Fienberg, Austin 5
Contact information for Jay Pasachoff: firstname.lastname@example.org
His books are listed at http://solarcorona.com and his past eclipse expeditions are linked at http://totalsolareclipse.org. His website for the International Astronomical Union is at http://eclipses.info
Quelle: Williams College
Eclipse 2017: NASA Supports a Unique Opportunity for Science in the Shadow
The first total solar eclipse in the continental United States in nearly 40 years takes place on Aug. 21, 2017. Beyond providing a brilliant sight in the daytime sky, total solar eclipses provide a rare chance for scientists to collect data only available during eclipses. NASA is funding 11 scientific studies that will take advantage of this opportunity.
“When the moon blocks out the sun during a total eclipse, those regions of Earth that are in the direct path of totality become dark as night for almost three minutes,” said Steve Clarke, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “This will be one of the best-observed eclipses to date, and we plan to take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn as much as we can about the sun and its effects on Earth.”
The August 2017 total solar eclipse will provide a unique opportunity to study Earth, the sun, and their interaction because of the eclipse’s long path over land. The path of the total eclipse crosses the U.S. from coast to coast, so scientists will be able to take ground-based observations over a period of more than an hour to complement the wealth of data provided by NASA satellites.
The 11 NASA-funded studies cross a range of disciplines, using the total solar eclipse to observe our sun and Earth, test new instruments, and even leverage the skills of citizen scientists to expand our understanding of the sun-Earth system. The studies are listed below, followed by the name of the principal investigator and their home institution.
Studying the sun
During a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks out the sun’s overwhelmingly bright face, revealing the relatively faint solar atmosphere, called the corona. Scientists can also use an instrument called a coronagraph – which uses a disk to block out the light of the sun – to create an artificial eclipse. However, a phenomenon called diffraction blurs the light near the disk in a coronagraph, making it difficult to get clear pictures of the inner parts of the corona, so total solar eclipses remain the only opportunity to study these regions in clear detail in visible light. In many ways, these inner regions of the corona are the missing link in understanding the sources of space weather – so total solar eclipses are truly invaluable in our quest to understand the sun-Earth connection.
The sun-focused studies are:
- Exploring the Physics of the Coronal Plasma through Imaging Spectroscopy during the 21 August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (Shadia Habbal, University of Hawaii)
- Testing a Polarization Sensor for Measuring Temperature and Flow Speed in the Solar Corona during the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 August 21 (Nat Gopalswamy, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)
- Chasing the 2017 Eclipse: Interdisciplinary Airborne Science from NASA's WB-57 (Amir Caspi, Southwest Research Institute)
- Measuring the Infrared Solar Corona During the 2017 Eclipse (Paul Bryans, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)
- Citizen Science Approach to Measuring the Polarization of Solar Corona During Eclipse 2017 (Padma Yanamandra-Fisher, Space Science Institute)
- Rosetta-stone experiments at infrared and visible wavelengths during the August 21 2017 Eclipse (Philip Judge, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research)
Total solar eclipses are also an opportunity to study Earth under uncommon conditions. The sudden blocking of the sun during an eclipse reduces the light and temperature on the ground, and these quick-changing conditions can affect weather, vegetation and animal behavior.
The Earth-focused studies are:
- Solar eclipse-induced changes in the ionosphere over the continental US (Philip Erickson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
- Quantifying the contributions of ionization sources on the formation of the D-region ionosphere during the 2017 solar eclipse (Robert Marshall, University of Colorado Boulder)
- Empirically-Guided Solar Eclipse Modeling Study (Gregory Earle, Virginia Tech)
- Using the 2017 Eclipse viewed by DSCOVR/EPIC & NISTAR from above and spectral radiance and broadband irradiance instruments from below to perform a 3-D radiative transfer closure experiment (Yiting Wen, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)
- Land and Atmospheric Responses to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse (Bohumil Svoma, University of Missouri)
AAS Awards 31 Mini-Grants for August 2017 Solar Eclipse
Thirty-one outreach projects in 21 states are receiving mini-grants up to $5,000 from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) to prepare the public for this year’s most anticipated celestial spectacle: the first total eclipse of the Sun to touch the US mainland since 1979 and the first to span the continent since 1918. This nationwide educational effort is funded by the National Science Foundation and administered by the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force. It is specifically aimed at reaching members of under-represented groups, including women/girls, ethnic minorities, and people with physical and/or mental disabilities, who often don’t imagine themselves in science careers or who think that science is not for them.
On Monday, 21 August 2017, a total solar eclipse will darken a roughly 70-mile-wide swath of the US from Oregon (in the late morning) to South Carolina (in the mid-afternoon). Millions of citizens and visitors will have a chance to see the ethereal solar corona — the Sun’s wispy outer atmosphere — and experience “darkness at midday.” Outside this narrow path of totality, all of North America will have a partial solar eclipse. The event is being called the Great American Eclipse or All-American Eclipse because the Moon’s dark shadow crosses the entire continental US but touches no other country as it travels 8,600 miles across Earth’s surface.
The AAS mini-grants program is named for Julena Steinheider Duncombe (1911-2003), an astronomer and educator who started the country’s first school-lunch program for underprivileged children. For many years she published eclipse predictions for the US Naval Observatory. Several towns in Nebraska where she taught school will be in the path of the Moon’s shadow on 21 August 2017.
Made with Google Maps. Click on image for high-res version (1.1-megabyte JPG)
The following organizations/institutions and principal investigators (PIs) are receiving Julena Steinheider Duncombe mini-grants from the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force:
- Alfred Box of Books Library, Alfred, NY; PI: Melanie A. Miller
- Andover Public Library, Andover, OH; PI: Susan Elizabeth Hill
- Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, CA; PI: Vivian White
- Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN; PI: J. Allyn Smith
- Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL; PI: Scott E. Ishman
- College of Charleston, Charleston, SC; PI: Terry Richardson
- College of Idaho, Caldwell, ID; PI: Kathryn E. Devine
- Danville Science Center, Danville, VA; PI: Brian C. Buchanan
- F&L Organizational Services, New Orleans, LA; PI: Sean Tate
- Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Fort Worth, TX; PI: Sarah Twidal
- Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC; PI: Kari Wouk
- Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, Louisville, KY; PI: Carolyn Cromer
- Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, Townsend, TN; PI: Jennifer L. Jones
- Heyward Gibbes Middle School, Columbia, SC; PI: Lillie Hardison
- Hummel Planetarium at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY; PI: Aida V. Bermudez
- Indigenous Education Institute, Friday Harbor, WA; PI: Nancy Maryboy
- Kearney Public Schools Foundation, Kearney, NE; PI: Lisa Parish
- L. C. Bates Museum at Good Will-Hinckley, Hinckley, ME; PI: Deborah Staber
- Macon County Public Library, Franklin, NC; PI: Cristen A. Dando
- Maryland Academy of Sciences, Maryland Science Center, Baltimore, MD; PI: Jim O’Leary
- Minnesota State University Moorhead Planetarium, Moorhead, MN; PI: Sara Kay Schultz
- Science Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, VA; PI: Hannah Weiss
- Science Outreach Center at St. Francis University, Loretto, PA; PI: Lanika Ruzhitskaya
- Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO; PI: Tamela D. Randolph
- St. Louis Astronomical Society, St. Louis, MO; PI: Richard W. Heuermann
- Truman State University, Kirksville, MO; PI: Vayujeet M. Gokhale
- University of Missouri, Columbia, MO; PI: Candace Galen
- University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL; PI: John William Hewitt
- University of Toledo Ritter Planetarium, Toledo, OH; PI: Michael C. Cushing
- WCQS 88.1 FM, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Asheville, NC; PI: Helen Chickering
- Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, Laramie, WY; PI: Shawna M. McBride
These projects will engage the public via eclipse-related education and outreach activities in a wide variety of venues, including science museums, planetariums, libraries, schools, afterschool programs, and college campuses — some in the path of totality, others in places where the eclipse will only be partial. Brief descriptions of the funded projects, and email links to the principal investigators, may be found on the AAS solar-eclipse website.
“There is clearly a lot of interest in this summer’s solar eclipse,” says task-force co-chair Angela Speck (University of Missouri, Columbia). “We received 153 mini-grant proposals representing a remarkable amount of creativity and enthusiasm. I wish we could have funded more of them, but the 31 projects we did fund will help spread ‘eclipse fever’ around the country and will undoubtedly motivate significant numbers of underserved youth to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116
Project Manager, AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force
The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 8,000) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.
NASA Prepares for Aug. 21 Total Solar Eclipse with Live Coverage, Safety Information
For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse will occur across the entire continental United States, and NASA is preparing to share this experience of a lifetime on Aug. 21.
Viewers around the world will be provided a wealth of images captured before, during, and after the eclipse by 11 spacecraft, at least three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station – each offering a unique vantage point for the celestial event.
NASA Television will air a multi-hour show, Eclipse Across America: Through the Eyes of NASA, with unprecedented live video of the celestial event, along with coverage of activities in parks, libraries, stadiums, festivals and museums across the nation, and on social media.
Coast to coast, from Oregon to South Carolina, 14 states will – over a span of almost two hours – experience more than two minutes of darkness in the middle of the day. When the moon completely blocks the sun, day will turn into night and make visible the otherwise hidden solar corona, the sun’s atmosphere. Bright stars and planets also will become visible. Using specialized solar viewing glasses or other equipment, all of North America will be able to view at least a partial eclipse lasting two to four hours.
“Never before will a celestial event be viewed by so many and explored from so many vantage points – from space, from the air, and from the ground,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “With our fellow agencies and a host of scientific organizations, NASA will continue to amplify one key message: Take time to experience the Aug. 21 eclipse, but experience it safely.”
The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. In the 70-mile-wide swath of the country that will experience a total eclipse, it’s safe to look at the total eclipse with your naked eyes only during the brief period of totality, which will last about two minutes, depending on your location.
An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially-eclipsed sun is with a pinhole projector. With this method, sunlight streams through a small hole – such as a pencil hole in a piece of paper, or even the space between your fingers – onto a makeshift screen, such as a piece of paper or the ground. It’s important to watch the screen, not the sun.
For more information on viewing safety, visit:
NASA and other agencies will provide vital information and updates on their respective websites that include viewing safety, activities across the country including at national parks, in addition to transportation preparations.
Studying Our Sun
Many researchers and citizen scientists will take advantage of this unique opportunity to study our sun, solar system, and Earth under rare circumstances. The sudden blocking of the sun during an eclipse reduces the light and changes the temperature on the ground, creating conditions that can affect local weather and animal behavior.
Understanding the sun has always been a top priority for space scientists. These scientists study how the sun affects space and the space environment of planets – a field known as heliophysics. As a source of light and heat for life on Earth, scientists want to understand how our sun works, why it changes, and how these changes influence life on Earth. The sun’s constant stream of solar material and radiation can impact spacecraft, communications systems, and orbiting astronauts.
“Eclipse 2017 provides an incredible opportunity to engage the entire nation and the world, inspiring learners of all ages who have looked to the sky with curiosity and wonder,” said Steven Clarke, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington.
NASA spacecraft capturing the event include: NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which will turn toward Earth to track the shadow of the moon on our planet; a host of Earth-observing spacecraft, which can both observe the shadow of the moon and measure how it affects Earth’s weather; and a fleet of solar observing spacecraft. NASA images and data of the eclipse will complement that collected by other scientific organizations.
Alaska Airlines has scheduled a flight from Portland to chase views of the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse over the clouds, but you can’t book a seat online.
The charter flight, due for a 7:30 a.m. PT takeoff on eclipse day, will be open by invitation only to astronomy enthusiasts and other VIPs. Except for two seats. Those seats will be given away in a social-media contest scheduled to begin on July 21, one month before the eclipse.
The Aug. 21 adventure follows up on a more impromptu eclipse-chasing trip on March 8, 2016, when Alaska changed the takeoff time for a previously scheduled Anchorage-to-Honolulu flight to let passengers see a total solar eclipse over the Pacific.
Last year’s schedule change was made at the behest of eclipse-chasers who noticed that the regularly scheduled flight path came oh-so-close to intersecting the path of totality. This year’s flight, in contrast, was added to the schedule specifically to take advantage of the eclipse.
As they fly along the Oregon coast, the passengers will be among the first to see the total eclipse on Aug. 21. For most eclipse-chasers, sky conditions loom as the biggest uncertainty in deciding where to go. But the fact that Alaska Airlines’ passengers will be flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet guarantees they’ll get a clear view of the total eclipse, regardless of the weather below.
From Oregon, the track of totality goes all the way across the country to the South Carolina coast. A partial solar eclipse will be visible from virtually all of North America.
“As an airline, we are in a unique position to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for astronomy enthusiasts,” Sangita Woerner, Alaska’s vice president of marketing, said in a news release. “Flying high above the Pacific Ocean will not only provide one of the first views, but also one of the best.”
Hotels and campsites along the path of totality have been virtually sold out for months, and Alaska reported that flights to eclipse destinations such as Redmond in central Oregon and Sun Valley in Idaho are filling up for August’s big week as well.
The man shakes his head, and Mike Kentrianakis is launched. He’s here at the Hayden Planetarium as an emissary of the American Astronomical Society, and his mission is to spread the word: On Aug. 21, the moon will pass between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow across a swath of the United States. The spectacle will be like nothing most people have ever seen.
Carmen Irizarry, a science teacher from Staten Island, walks over with her two young granddaughters. She’s been thinking about taking them to a spot on the path of totality — where the moon will completely block out the sun for a few mesmerizing minutes. “I entirely encourage it,” Kentrianakis tells her. “It’s a completely different phenomenon. It shouldn’t even be called an eclipse. It should be called something else.”
Kentrianakis would know. He has witnessed 20 solar eclipses in his 52 years, missing work, straining relationships and spending most of his life’s savings to chase the moon’s shadow across the globe. The pursuit has taken him to a mountaintop in Argentina, a jungle in Gabon, an ice field north of the Arctic Circle — exposing him to every type of eclipse there is to see, on every continent except Antarctica. Last year he watched one from an airplane 36,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The video of his rapturous reaction went viral, cementing his status as a “crazy eclipse guy,” as he jokingly calls himself. “Oh, my God,” Kentrianakis exclaims 21 times in the 3½ -minute clip. “Totality! Totality! Whooo, yeah!”
But it’s the Aug. 21 eclipse, the first in a century to cross the entire continental United States, that Kentrianakis has been looking forward to for a lifetime. As the moon races in its orbit around Earth, it will briefly pass between our planet and the sun, completely blocking out the sunlight for people standing in its 70-mile-wide shadow. Over the course of an hour and a half, that shadow will follow the moon’s path across the continent, beginning off the Oregon coast and sweeping down to South Carolina.
Finally, all of America will see what he has seen. Finally, “they’re going to understand.”
“If it strikes you hard enough,” Kentrianakis says, “you will never be the same.”
Kentrianakis was first struck on Feb. 26, 1979, in the middle of a snowy farm field in Manitoba. He wa