Contact: Harriet Laird
It’s the first total solar eclipse across the U.S. in nearly a century, and the place to watch the extraordinary phenomenon is the Drill Field at Mississippi State University on August 21, from noon-3 p.m.
Not only will spectators be able to observe the Sun reach 89 percent coverage by the moon at 1:27 p.m. on campus, but MSU researchers will have a rare chance to advance their knowledge of the star at the center of the solar system.
Scientists in MSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy are sponsoring the event, one of thousands of viewings across the nation of the spectacle that hasn’t occurred in the contiguous U.S. since 1918.
“During the maximum eclipse, the campus and Starkville communities can expect to notice the air temperature get slightly cooler, the sky will turn a twilight hue, and animals such as birds and livestock may exhibit evening behaviors,” said Angelle Tanner, associate professor in the MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Tanner also mentioned that the planet Venus should be visible in the western sky, and at the maximum time of coverage, the Sun “should appear as only a crescent sliver.”
The eclipse’s path of totality – extending from Oregon to South Carolina and stretching over a section of land about 70 miles wide – will see professional and amateur astronomers flock to it with cameras and scientific instruments.
“This is a very rare opportunity for scientists to study changes to the physical properties of the solar corona and the chromosphere because the Sun can produce high energy coronal mass ejections which can impact earth,” Tanner said.
For curiosity seekers who may attend the campus event or may try to view the eclipse from home, Tanner warns that eye safety is imperative.
“We will have about 1,000 pair of glasses, pin-hole viewers and a few telescopes available for those who join us in the Drill Field. We’ll also hand out information about how to properly view the eclipse,” she said. “Even with 89 percent coverage, it’s the remaining 11 percent of light that we have to take precautions with in protecting our eyes because we won’t have the full, bright sun that usually makes us look away.”
In case of rain or heavy cloud cover, Tanner said Room 1030 in the Old Main Academic Center has been reserved for 1-3 p.m. NASA’s live feed of the eclipse will be projected, with additional activities on hand.
Community members interested in attending MSU’s solar eclipse viewing are encouraged to use the university’s SMART transit system on that day. Visitors also can get a free, one-day parking pass at parkingservices.msstate.edu. For more information on SMART transit routes or obtaining visitor passes, call 662-325-3526. Another option is the new public parking garage at Old Main Academic Center, 560 Barr Ave. Hourly fees apply.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy will have water available and facilitate fun activities. Visitors for the event are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket to the Drill Field.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.