Science at Solar Eclipses

Friday, February 17, 2017: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room 304 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jay Pasachoff, Williams College, Williamstown, MA
A total solar eclipse provides an unparalleled experience to witness the wonders and clockwork of the Universe. They leave an indelible impact on anyone lucky enough to have witnessed one. The total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, offers such a rare opportunity; it boasts the first path of totality over the US from coast to coast in 99 years. We, representing the American Astronomical Society's Task Force on the 2017 Eclipse and the International Astronomical Union's Working Group on Eclipses, are organizing education and outreach to explain--to the general public, to teachers, to students Preschool-K-12, and to college students--why it is worthwhile to travel into the 70-mile-wide band of totality, and how a "99% eclipse" still leaves 1% of the sun's brightness unhidden, making it over 1000 times brighter than it is in the band of totality, preventing observers of even a 99% eclipse to see the most exciting eclipse phenomena, including the diamond rings, the chromosphere, and the solar corona. We describe how to observe the eclipse safely, even for the rest of the US (which has >60% coverage) and how it may be necessary to persuade school boards and medical societies of the value of everyone's observing the eclipse--and how falsely overclaiming hazards can lead to negative consequences more severe than any risk. The speakers will discuss not only logistics but also scientific studies to be made, citizen science to be carried out, and activities for students of all ages.