Course About Upcoming Solar Eclipse Offered at UIndy

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A total eclipse of the sun is something that happens rarely, and according to Assistant Professor of Physics and Aerospace Science Sarah Reynolds, Indianapolis is one of the best places in the world to see the upcoming solar event. This is the first time since the 1200s there has been a total solar eclipse visible in Indiana, Reynolds said, which means that the sun, moon and Earth will all align. This means the sun will be completely covered by the shadow of the moon, causing complete darkness.

“So a total solar eclipse is what we have,” Reynolds said. “We will actually be in the portion of the planet where the darkest part of that shadow—the full shadow of the moon—passes over. And so we will see the sun, the bright surface, being completely blocked.”

Because of the upcoming eclipse, Reynolds created a class: “Discover Eclipses: Together!” where not only UIndy staff and students can learn and prepare for the eclipse, but even people outside of the university are able to join and engage as well. People in the surrounding community were given a chance to join the class, and if students are still interested in the class they will have a chance to join until Feb. 10, but would no longer be given the option for credit. Every week the class is given a topic to focus on, as well as resources to go along with said topic. The class is graded via pass or fail, according to Reynolds. 

Reynolds said that although the class is completely online, there will be some in-person events on campus where all students are welcome to attend to learn more about eclipses and prepare to watch the eclipse when it arrives. 

“Eclipses are one of those things that like, they’ve had all sorts of impacts throughout history and culture and art and literature,” Reynolds said. “We try to give people a little sense of that, as well as some of the science connected with them.”

The eclipse will occur on April 8 around 3 p.m., and all afternoon classes that day will be canceled to give students the opportunity to observe the eclipse. The hope with the cancellation,  Reynolds said, is not for students to go home and relax but take the time to observe and take in the eclipse, as it is something that only happens once in a lifetime. Another important thing for everyone to note is that it is not safe for people to directly look at the eclipse during the lead up to totality, which should take about an hour and will last around four minutes, according to Reynolds. People observing the eclipse are advised to wear specific eye protection of the right kind, which the school will be providing. 

“We will have UIndy eclipse glasses that are available on that day for people that are viewing here,” Reynolds said. “There’s also other ways that people can view it during that time … You can look at the shadow effects and you can look at how it projects through something. So there’s other ways of seeing some of that. And then the exciting thing is when totality happens, when you have that like four minutes where it’s fully blocked—you don’t need glasses then. You can take them off and look at it and enjoy and kind of see the whole thing.”

Environmental science and earth space science major Annie Hadley is a teacher’s assistant for the class and aids in monitoring discussion forums as well as seeing how students are enjoying the class. Along with some L/P events that will be offered in conjunction with the class, Hadley said they will also be sending out informational emails periodically to help those not enrolled in the class prepare for the eclipse as well. 

“I just want to stress that this is a really big thing for the university and we’re going to be having a big event that will have a lot of opportunities to connect with student organizations,” Hadley said. “We’re also inviting more than just students—we’re inviting community members. So if you want to bring your families or friends or anyone to view the eclipse with you, they are more than welcome to come.”

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