GCC Physics hosts viewing of rare total solar eclipse

In ancient times, eclipses were seen as occasions of fear and wonder that inspired myths about angry gods, passionate celestial bodies, giant hungry beasts, and other fantastical tales.

Modern observers understand that a total solar eclipse like the one coming up on April 8 is just the result of the mechanics of the universe, but that doesn’t diminish the interest and excitement that such an eclipse still elicits.

In a total solar eclipse, the moon passes between Earth and the sun and covers the entire sun, leaving only a ring of light – the corona – visible, according to Dr. James Clem, professor of Physics at Grove City College. “The fact is they are just magnificent to behold,” he said.

That will certainly be the case with the upcoming eclipse. The path of totality – where the sun is completely obscured – is just west of Grove City and much of northwestern Pennsylvania. While the eclipse isn’t of any “particular scientific importance,” Clem said it is rare in that it will be visible here in nearly all its glory.

“The sun will be approximately 99 percent obscured by the moon as seen from here in Grove City,” Clem said.

To celebrate – and educate -- Grove City College’s Physics Department is hosting an eclipse viewing event April 8 on the campus’ Quad between Harbison Chapel and Crawford Hall. It is free and open to the public.

The Physics Department is providing free eclipse viewing glasses, light-filtering telescopes to provide a close up view, a live telescopic feed of the eclipse, and faculty experts and knowledgeable students on hand to explain what is going on in the sky.

The event, like the eclipse, begins at 2 p.m. and runs until 4:30 p.m. when the moon completes its move across the sun. It will reach the point of maximum obscuration around 3:15 p.m.

Total solar eclipses are relatively rare, particularly in the contiguous United States. The last one was August 21, 2017 – when the sun was approximately 79 percent obscured in Grove City – and the next one won’t come around for another 21 years.

“People can truly say they’ll get to witness a once-in-a-lifetime event when viewing this solar eclipse,” Clem noted.

GCC Physics hosts viewing of rare total solar eclipse

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