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Thousands watch epic solar eclipse from Science lawn

Aug 28, 2017
A student looks at the eclipse.
An IUPUI student takes part in the Eclipse Viewing Party on Monday, Aug. 21, on the University Library East Lawn.Photo by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

Thousands of Jaguars howled – er, roared – at the moon (and the sun) Aug. 21 during the School of Science’s Eclipse Viewing Party held on a crowded University Library East Lawn on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus. The cosmic event peaked with a 91.5 percent solar eclipse at 2:25 p.m.

The School of Science handed out 2,000 special eclipse-viewing glasses to eager amateur astronomers standing in a line that wound around campus for hundreds of yards. Many more students, staff and faculty members brought their own. Some lugged homemade box viewers for safe watching of the eclipse with the naked eye. Lecturer Edward Rhoads, an astrophysicist, manned a telescope that reflected the eclipse onto a whiteboard. Dozens crowded around to see the sun get slowly overshadowed by the moon.

Description of the following video:

[Video: Students receive eclipse glasses.]

[Music: Upbeat rock music]

[Video: students, staff and faculty look up to the eclipse with glasses and their smart phones. The line of students to get eclipse glasses is shown.]

[Words appear: Eclipse Viewing Party/IUPUI, Aug. 21, 2017]

[Words appear: “Sun God,” The Mound Builders/]

[Words appear: Edward Rhoads/Astrophysics lecturer]

Edward speaks: Oh, it was way more packed than any of us expected. The glasses went really fast. It was standing room only for the telescope. If I could go back in time, I probably would’ve found out a way to bring two telescopes instead of one. The clouds got in the way from time to time but they gave us enough time in between that it was pretty good.

[Video: NASA images of the eclipse.]

[Words appear: IUPUI Fulfilling the Promise,]

[End of transcript]

But most looked upward with glasses on. Clouds covered the sun here and there, but overall, the event was visible and well-received on this first day of classes. Soon after 2:25 p.m., the thousands cheered and uploaded numerous pictures and social media status updates before returning to classes, meetings and offices.

“It’s exciting that everyone got so excited about science,” said Emily Roosevelt, a biology major with a chemistry minor. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people out on the lawn before.” 

Roosevelt brought her made-from-scratch eclipse telescope, which drew many curious eclipse fans. Her device used a simple pair of binoculars as its source. Though she studies science found on Earth, Roosevelt traces her interest in astronomy to experiencing a NASA shuttle launch led by her uncle, retired astronaut Michael Baker, when she was only 9 years old.

“I’ve always been really fascinated by space and the perspective it gives us here on Earth, that we’re part of something much larger,” Roosevelt explained. “Getting to see events like this captures that entirely.”

Description of the following video:

[Video: Biology student Emily Roosevelt stands next to her homemade reflective telescope]

[Words appear: IUPUI presents bug then Emily Roosevelt/Biology]

Emily speaks: This is a solar projector, so it’s similar to a pinwheel projector that you probably have seen a bunch of YouTube videos about simpler devices. But what I did is I attached binoculars here to the top, and then the light shines through down into this tunnel. I’ve flocked the inside of this tunnel, which is the same material they use to make the inside of telescopes.

I wanted to use Vantablack black paint, but that stuff’s kind of really hard to get a hold of, because it’s made from these carbon nanofibers and stuff like that. So it’s kind of more technical. But yeah, the light just comes in through these binoculars, and then there’s a projector sheet of paper down there on the bottom.

And you can use this to watch the eclipse, or you could build it in your backyard if you wanna look at sunspots or watch any of the planet transits and stuff like that. And my uncle’s name is Michael Baker. He’s an Astronaut. He’s actually flown into space four times piloting the space shuttle so he was the commander.

I got to see him launch once when I was nine, so that was really cool. I got to watch from the family platform, so you get really close. I’ve always been really fascinated by space and the perspective that it gives us here on earth that we’re part of something much larger, and getting to see events like this, it just kind of captures that entirely.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people out on the lawn before, so that’s really exciting that everybody got so excited about science.

[Words appear: IUPUI Fulfilling the Promise,]

[End of transcript]

A woman hands eclipse glasses to a student.
Science students watch a solar eclipse.
A woman puts on eclipse glasses.
Students line up for eclipse glasses.

Photos by Liz Kaye, IU Communications

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