Professor works with students

Matt Penn, adjunct assistant professor of practice in the School of Physics and Applied Physics at SIU, works with students recently. Penn will give the next “Journey to the Eclipse” talk at SIU on Friday, Oct. 6. (Photo provided)

October 05, 2023

Next ‘Journey to the Eclipse’ talk on Friday features national citizen science project

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – A series of public talks about the upcoming total eclipse continues Friday, Oct. 6, with a faculty member with decades of solar research illuminating a nationwide observation project and Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s leadership role in it.

Matt Penn, adjunct assistant professor of practice in the School of Physics and Applied Physics at SIU, is the speaker at Friday’s “Journey to the Eclipse” talk, set for 3 p.m. at Guyon Auditorium in Morris Library. The series is free and open to the campus and public.

Penn’s talk will center on the Dynamic Eclipse Broadcast (DEB) Initiative, a citizen-science experiment using volunteer telescope teams across all of North America to capture images of the upcoming annular solar eclipse on Oct. 14 and total solar eclipse on April 8. The data collected from this experiment will be used to study an array of solar phenomena. 

Penn has worked at five solar observatories during his 30-year solar research career, publishing scores of papers and mentoring dozens of students along the way. Now an engineer, Penn is continuing to pursue his passion for astronomy both as a hobby and through projects such as the DEB Initiative. 

The “Journey to the Eclipse” series is aimed at bringing together experts in astronomy, solar eclipses and other sun-related topics for students, faculty and staff of SIU, as well as members of the Southern Illinois community. Three previous series events were held in April, August and September.

Each talk is at 3 p.m. on the first Friday of each month in Guyon Auditorium. The talks also will stream live via Zoom and be recorded. For more information and links go to

A bonus event is set for Oct. 13 – the day before the annular eclipse – and will feature Blair Allen, NASA EDGE producer and co-host. NASA EDGE, a video podcast, takes an inside and outside look at all things NASA, from the latest launch to the coolest gadgets. Allen’s travels for NASA EDGE have taken him around the globe.

The Nov. 3 talk will feature Mark Wagner, professor in the School of Anthropology, Political Science and Sociology. Wagner will speak on “Stargazing in the Past: Native American Celestial Rock Art Images in Southern Illinois.”

Wagner will discuss celestial images such as the sun, moon and stars as depicted in Illinois rock art.  He will address questions such as whether the images show past eclipses, or possibly are associated with Native American religious beliefs such as the Morning Star Myth. He will also talk about the Shawnee Prophet, who correctly predicted the Eclipse of 1806, astounding his Native American followers.

Wagner’s research interests include the study of Native American rock art in Illinois, the archaeology of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Cherokee Trail of Tears and the investigation of African American and Underground Railroad sites in Southern Illinois.