Eclipse 2017: Pretending to be an astronomer

I’m frequently a little jealous of my astronomy colleagues – they teach the courses that are more fun and get to show a lot of amazing pictures in their talks.  Physics, when compared to astronomy, is less fun, more intimidating, and waaaaay less pretty.  With all of my astronomy colleagues up north viewing the totality, I had the opportunity to be the “astronomer” on campus today.

I gave a lunch-time presentation where I tried to cover some of the basics of the eclipse (safety!) and answered questions.  I even snuck in a few slides about general relativity – including an awesome space picture.  The presentation has no equations and only one plot, so it felt adequately astronomy-y.  I even had a number of fun demonstrations – though I try to do that in physics too.

Then, I went with our new students to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.  The buses left campus around 1:15 and arrived at the NCCHR a little before 2 PM.  We had eclipse glasses for all of the students, and I took a sieve and sun-spotter for additional viewing options.  I was a bit worried about the clouds, but we had an unblocked view from the sun starting around 2:25 – and peak, here in Atlanta, was at 2:36.

Overall, I had thought that 97% coverage would be closer to totality than it was – it didn’t get as dark out as I expected, for instance.  However, it was still neat.  I’m glad that we were able to work it in to the schedule of orientation so that the new students had a chance to witness this.

It was fun being “astronomer for a day”.  As I was walking from the NCCHR to the subway station (through a large plaza area filled with tourists) I even stopped and showed a number of families the eclipse on the sun-spotter.  It was nice talking to people about some astronomy and seeing how this eclipse really brought people together.