SPS, SHPE, Dr. Laurent-Muehleisen host solar eclipse viewing event

Friday, August 25th, 2017

On the first day of classes, Monday, August 21, the Illinois Tech campus was privileged to be able to view a partial solar eclipse, where approximately 87% of the sun’s disk was obscured by the moon. To prepare for and celebrate this extraordinary event, the Illinois Tech chapters of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) as well as the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) collaborated with astrophysics professor Dr. Sally Laurent-Muehleisen to host a solar eclipse viewing party on the lawn of the John T. Rettaliata Engineering Center. Due to some spectacularly good luck, the peak of the eclipse occurred at 1:19 p.m., allowing students to view the phenomenon during the standard lunch hour of 12:50-1:50 p.m. when most did not have class.

Both SPS and SHPE pooled resources in order to purchase a number of eclipse viewing glasses, and although the day turned out to be pretty cloudy, a good view of the eclipse was still possible through the glasses. The two groups saw a much larger turnout at the event than expected, meaning not every attendee was able to grab their own pair, but the solar spectacle ignited a certain sense of camaraderie within that crowd that day, and many people passed around their glasses to share.

In addition to the eclipse glasses, there were a few other viewing options available to the crowd. Dr. Laurent-Muehleisen provided her own personal telescope, which projected the image of the eclipse onto a large piece of white foam board. Health physics masters student William Limestall helped maintain this setup and provide explanations to other viewers. Despite the clouds, the telescope provided a particularly clear image. Dr. Laurent-Muehleisen also brought along a pair of binoculars secured to a tripod, which projected the image as well. Astrophysics student Beverly Lowell helped keep this projection clear, although a greater amount of difficulty was presented by the clouds for this setup. In addition, there was even a welding helmet floating around the crowd from someone within the physics department, which provided a surprisingly great view.

The next solar eclipse that will be viewable from Chicago will occur on April 8, 2024, where approximately 94% of the sun’s disk will be covered by the moon. Unfortunately, the next total solar eclipse viewable from Chicago is many years away, and will occur on September 14, 2099.