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Telescope viewing, lecture will highlight solar eclipse

August 14, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. — The last time a total solar eclipse was visible in the continental United States, legwarmers were the hot new style and gasoline cost 86 cents per gallon.

Eclipse diagram

Most Indiana University Kokomo students were not yet born — and their parents were likely young enough to enjoy the first McDonald’s Happy Meals, introduced that year in 1979.

But on the first day of fall semester these students will have their chance to witness a partial eclipse on campus, which will peak at 2:20 p.m. on Monday, August. 21. Other parts of the country will experience a total eclipse, in which the moon completely covers the sun.

“Unless you have traveled to see an eclipse, this will be the first since 1979, and hence the first eclipse ever for many people,” said Patrick Motl, associate professor of physics. “The last coast-to-coast eclipse across the United States was in 1918. Also, you can’t underestimate the fact that this is the first eclipse in the U.S. since the rise of social media. Everyone in the country can see at least a partial solar eclipse, and millions of people will be sharing that experience with the world.”

While Indiana is not on the path of totality, those on campus, along with everyone else in North America, parts of South America, Africa, and Europe, will see a partial solar eclipse, in which the moon covers part of the sun’s disk.

The IU Kokomo Observatory will live stream the eclipse from noon to 4 p.m. to offer safe viewing through its Takahashi telescope, which is equipped with a solar filter. The stream will be shown on campus in Kresge Auditorium.

Those who can’t come to campus can watch live feed from the telescope at youtube.com/iukokomo/live.

Motl will discuss the eclipse from 1:30 to 2 p.m. in Havens Auditorium. All events are free and open to the public, and free parking is available on campus.

He warned viewers to take precautions when observing the eclipse.

“It’s not safe to look directly at the sun,” he said. “The focused sunlight is too intense, and can permanently damage your eyes.”

For those disappointed not to see the totality, Motl said the northern edge of the narrow band of the umbra of the moon’s shadow will pass right over IU Kokomo during the next eclipse, anticipated on April 8, 2024.


• Use eclipse glasses compliant with the ISO 12312-2 standard. These will look totally opaque unless you are looking at something as bright as the sun, as the glasses transmit only one part in a million of the incident light. You cannot safely use ordinary sunglasses or any improvised device to directly view the sun.

• You can project the image of the sun with a simple pinhole projector. Let sunlight fall on a pinhole you made in one piece of poster board or heavy paper with a push pin, and let that light fall on a piece of white paper.

• You can also hold up a colander to the sunlight. Each hole in the colander will act like a pinhole projector, forming multiple images of the sun in eclipse.

• Nature will make pinhole projectors for you. Look at the glints of sunlight under a tree. Paths that light can follow between the leaves also will be pinhole projectors, and each will form an image of the sun with the moon in front of it.

For more information about the eclipse, go to 2017 NASA Eclipse.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 08/14/2017