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Solar eclipse viewing at UMass Dartmouth observatory

Rain date: April 8, 2024

Observatory with blue sky and clouds

The UMass Dartmouth Physics Department will host a solar eclipse viewing party, weather permitting, at the university Observatory at the front of the campus on August 21, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. At approximately 2:45 p.m., the eclipse will be at its peak of in the SouthCoast area. The next solar eclipse across North America will be April 8, 2024.

The Physics Department will provide free ISO-certified viewing glasses, and will have posters and physicists on hand to provide information and explain the science on solar eclipses. For more information on the event, contact Department of Physics at 508-999-8354 or visit http://www.faculty.umassd.edu/j.wang/eclipse/

For more information on the eclipse, visit https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/

Q&A with Physics Professor Alan Hirshfeld, director of the UMass Dartmouth observatory and author of multiple books on the cosmos and astronomers:

What makes a total solar eclipse so awe-inspiring to the public?

AH: Simon Newcomb, mathematician at the U. S. Naval Observatory, described the total solar eclipse of 1869 in “Popular Astronomy” in 1890 this way:

"As the last ray of sunlight vanishes, a scene of unexampled beauty, grandeur, and impressiveness breaks upon the view. The globe of the moon, black as ink, is seen as if it were hanging in mid-air, surrounded by a crown of soft, silvery light, like that which the old painters used to depict around the heads of saints. Besides this “corona,” tongues of rose-coloured flame of the most fantastic forms shoot out from various points around the edge of the lunar disk.”

Also, at the onset of totality, the moon seems to instantaneously appear, as if from nowhere. Before this moment, the solar glare tricks us into perceiving the partially eclipsed portion of the sun as part of the sky rather than a 3D solid moon.

 What is different about this particular solar eclipse that has generated so much public interest?

AH: It’s the fact that it is viewable from a wide swath of the U.S. The total eclipse path is a transcontinental strip around 60 miles wide stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. The previous total solar eclipse over the continental U.S. was in 1979, over the Pacific Northwest, and the next one in 2024. Around here, the sun will be about 65% eclipsed at maximum. Viewers must wear eye protection at all times when looking at the partially eclipsed sun.

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