VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota Department of Physics will host a solar eclipse viewing party on Monday, Aug. 21, from 12:40 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event, which will include telescope viewing and interaction with physics faculty and graduate students on the lawn on the east side of the Akeley-Lawrence Science Center, is free and open to the public.
“Good things are best shared with other people,” said Joel Sander, assistant professor of physics. Since the first total solar eclipse to pass through any of the lower 48 states in the past 38 years will occur during Sander’s first day fall-semester astronomy class, he decided to delay reviewing the syllabus and host an eclipse viewing event for his students and the community instead.
“We will be there to answer questions and talk about the eclipse,” Sander said of the faculty and graduate students in the department. Two telescopes with solar filters will track the sun as it progresses through the sky and as many as 160 eclipse-viewing glasses will be available. (Glasses are also available at local retailers and online).
Sky-watchers in Vermillion will see approximately 95 percent of the sun blocked at the eclipse’s peak, Sander said. He cautions that looking directly at the sun during this phase, and before and after the peak coverage, requires viewing glasses. “You can’t see or feel the damage to your eyes when you look directly at the sun,” Sander said. “The only safe time to look at a solar eclipse is when the sun is 100 percent covered by the moon’s shadow.”
Sander emphasizes that witnessing a solar eclipse is an intense experience that has deep connections to history, art and culture. “Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, many great monuments and early writings—all are connected to what happened in the skies. What is going on in the heavens is very important to human history,” said Sander. “This total solar eclipse may be the most dramatic event in the sky to see in your lifetime and it connects you to past human history.”