March 25, 2015

Astronomer to launch solar eclipse events

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. – The first in a series of educational events leading up to the total solar eclipse in 2017 is set for next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Matt Penn, an astronomer at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson, Ariz., will give a public presentation at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, in Lawson Hall 161. Admission is free.

The first total solar eclipse over the mainland United States since 1979 will take place on Aug. 21, 2017. Then, on April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse will again sweep across the nation. 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.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to attend a media availability with astronomer Matt Penn at 10 a.m. on March 31 in Student Center Ballroom A. Bob Baer, a physics department staff member and co-chair of the university-community eclipse planning committee, also will participate.

Carbondale is the closest city and SIU the closest campus to the point of the 2017 eclipse’s greatest duration. Penn will discuss upcoming solar coronal research as well as the Citizen CATE (Continental America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment planned for the 2017 eclipse. 

The experiment will use a fleet of telescopes to observe the eclipse, including in Carbondale. As the shadow of the moon travels across the continental United States, citizen astronomers from more than 60 sites will take images of the brightness of the inner solar corona. The combined Citizen CATE Experiment will reveal for the first time how this part of the solar atmosphere changes during 90 minutes. 

Penn is the lead investigator on the Citizen CATE Experiment and a member of the American Astronomical Society Eclipse 2017 task force.

Bob Baer, staff member in SIU’s physics department, is the Illinois coordinator for the Citizen CATE Experiment and co-chair of the university-community committee planning eclipse-related activities.

 “The Citizen CATE Experiment is an opportunity for amateur astronomers from all across the U.S. to take part in an historic large-scale solar observation that will contribute to our understanding of our closest star, the sun,” he said. “For people in our region, Dr. Penn’s visit to campus offers a great opportunity to learn more about the project and become involved.”

To learn more, visit the Eclipse Crossroads of America website,