Solar Eclipse 2017 @ PLU

On August 21st, 2017 the Moon passed between the Earth and the Sun creating an amazing celestial display visible across the United States. Although our corner of Washington did not experience a total solar eclipse, it came close with about 94% of the Sun being blocked by the Moon. The PLU Physics Department invited the community to view the eclipse on campus. An estimated attendance of over 1,000 accepted the invitation to join in the fun!

The morning began in the Anderson University Center with a presentation on the eclipse by Physics Professor Sean O’Neill who explained how and why eclipses happen. He also discussed how to safely view and photograph the solar eclipse.

After the presentation, all were invited to join others of the PLU and surrounding community in PLU’s Red Square where around 9:08am the silhouette of the Moon began to creep across the Sun. At close to 10:20am the maximum eclipse took place.  While the Sun wasn’t completely blocked in our area, we experienced the maximum phase of the eclipse, with 94% of the Sun shaded by the Moon.  By 11:38am the eclipse was complete and the Moon crossed the Sun.  Solar Eclipse Success!

PLU Department of Physics in coordination with Obee Credit Union provided eclipse glasses to the first 250 parties. Some of the viewing opportunities included access to the Physics Departments Sunspotter, portable telescope, and Pinhole Projectors. There were also expert students and professors available to answer questions.

In addition to safely viewing this amazing event those present were invited to participate in activities and crafts in order to learn more about the Moon and Solar System.  Participants enjoyed activities such as:

  • having their face painted with a Sun, Moon, or star;
  • exploring the mysterious properties of Moon mud and Moon sand;
  • learning about the phases of the Moon using Oreos (and snacking on some too!);
  • taking fun picture memories at our photo booth for a space selfie with Sun, Moon, and outer space props;
  • enjoying a sing-along with members of PLUtonic Acappella – PLU’s premier men’s a cappella group in a “Total Eclipse of the Heart”; and
  • participating in NASA’s nationwide science experiment by downloading the GLOBE Observer app on their smart devices.

*Special thanks to Alice Few and the Tacoma Astronomical Society for addressing the Jazz Under the Stars concerts, which built up a lot of anticipation for the event and graciously sharing their stock of eclipse glasses with us.  The eclipse glasses made available to attendees were generously underwritten by Obee Credit Union.  Enormous thanks also to James Collins of Obee Credit Union.