2017 solar eclipse focus of event planned at SIU

With a total solar eclipse a year away, officials at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are marking the occasion and using it as an opportunity to educate the public and new students on what to expect and how to get involved.

The event, “Eclipse 2017: One Year Countdown,” is planned during the evening of Sunday, Aug. 21, at the SIU Student Center auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

The evening will feature videos and a movie about eclipses, as well as information on the 2017 eclipse, followed by an invitation to night sky observations later that evening.

SIU is gearing up to play a major role in the Aug. 21, 2017, eclipse, which will feature the first total solar eclipse over the mainland United States since 1979.

The eclipse viewing path and shadow that day will sweep across the country from northwest to southeast, with its point of greatest duration a few miles south of Carbondale.

Officials expect 30,000 to 50,000 people to descend on the area for the happening. The university’s planning, led by a campus-community committee, has been underway for more than a year.

Not only that, but a second such event is due on April 8, 2024. The intersection of the two eclipse paths is just south of Carbondale over Cedar Lake.

No other place in the world will offer the opportunity to observe these two eclipses from the same ground-based spot.

Bob Baer, specialist with the SIU Department of Physics and co-chairperson of the planning committee, said he hoped to organize the event for new SIU students who might not yet have heard about the upcoming eclipse.

Baer said the event also is aimed at members of the general public, who will receive updates on where the university and other entities stand on the planning process.

The highlights of the event, however, are video-based. It starts with a 30-minute program produced by NASA Edge that previews the 2017 event at SIU and the region.

NASA filmed the program in June when its personnel were on hand for a workshop on campus. That two-day event also brought a large crowd of eclipse enthusiasts out, Baer said.

That video will be followed by a screening of “Chasing Shadows,” which profiles people who “chase” eclipses around the world.

Once the movie ends at about 8:30 p.m., participants will have the opportunity to join SIU sky-watchers on the observation area on the roof of the Neckers Building, just south of the student center.

If the crowds are large, Baer said organizers also will have at least one other telescope set up on the ground near Neckers’ west entrance to handle the overflow.

The Gazette-Democrat

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