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Solar spectacle ready to cast its shadow over IU South Bend

Community Engagement Events Mar 18, 2024

Anthony Magaldi poses for a portrait wearing IU South Bend Eclipse Glasses Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, on campus at IU South Bend. (Photo by Mi A cosmic cover-up is coming to our area and the IU South Bend campus is gearing up to take full advantage of the learning experience.

North America will experience a total solar eclipse that passes over Indiana on Monday, April 8. South Bend will not experience a total eclipse, but it will be close.

We asked Dr. Henry Scott from the Department of Physics and Astronomy to answer questions about this relatively rare phenomenon.

Q: What happens when you’re watching a solar eclipse? 

Dr. Scott: Every month, the moon goes through a series of well-known phases, including full, gibbous, quarters, crescent and new. A full moon occurs when Sun and Moon are on opposite sides of Earth, and we therefore see the lit side of Moon, whereas a new moon occurs when they’re on the same side, and we see the unlit side. Earth and Moon both cast shadows, but usually the shadows miss the other body because they’re not in a perfect line. Every now and then, however, they do line up, and that’s when we experience lunar (during a full moon) or solar (during a new moon) eclipses. The next new moon will occur on April 8, 2024, and Moon’s shadow will travel across parts of Earth, thus enabling those in its path to observe a solar eclipse.

Q: What will people here on campus experience during the eclipse?

Dr. Scott: The shadows that can cause eclipses have portions that completely (“umbral”), or only partially (“penumbral”), block sunlight. Although the eclipse phenomenon will be visible in South Bend, at no point will South Bend be in the umbral shadow. As a result, even during the maximum portion of the eclipse, some direct sunlight will still be visible, which is called a partial solar eclipse. Notably, areas south and east of South Bend will experience the “totality” of a total solar eclipse because the umbral shadow will pass over them.

Even in South Bend, however, it will get noticeably darker (and perhaps colder) during the partial eclipse, and IUSB will offer safe viewing so that visitors will be able to see Moon passing in front of Sun. Even if you can’t go somewhere that will be in totality, it is still worth wonderful to see a partial solar eclipse!

Q: How long will the entire eclipse last? 

Dr. Scott: South Bend will experience the partial eclipse over roughly two and half hours, beginning at 1:53 PM and ending at 4:23 PM, with the greatest coverage (97% of Sun blocked by Moon!) occurring at 3:09 PM.

Q: What should people do to protect their eyes and safely view it?

Dr. Scott: At no time is it safe to directly look at the sun during a partial solar eclipse. Even for the few minutes when nearly 97% of Sun will be blocked by Moon in South Bend, direct viewing can damage your eyes. Telescopes with special filters to drastically attenuate the sunlight or configured to project an image of the sun onto a screen, can be used, but these need to be done correctly or they can be extremely dangerous. Alternatively, “eclipse glasses” that meet the ISO12312-2 standard will block enough light that one can look at the sun through them to see the partially obscured solar disc. It’s also possible to make a simple pinhole camera to safely project an image of the sun onto a screen or surface. All such safe viewing methods will be freely available to the public at IUSB.

Q: How could the weather impact the experience?

Dr. Scott: Current long-range forecasts suggest reason for optimism in South Bend, in terms of having clear skies during the eclipse, but such predictions this far out are very hard to make! Even if it does turn out to be cloudy, it will still be possible to tell that it’s getting darker, but if it’s overcast, we won’t be able to see or make images of Sun being eclipsed.

Q: How will this eclipse event compare to what we experienced a few years ago? 

Dr. Scott: The upcoming April 8th eclipse will feature nearly 97% coverage of the solar disc, whereas the last highly publicized partial eclipse in South Bend (August 21, 2017) only experienced 88% coverage. That was still amazing to observe at IUSB, so be sure to observe this year, even if you can’t be in totality!

ACTIVITIES PLANNED FOR THE ECLIPSE

Tuesday, March 26 from 8:30-9:30 p.m. in Northside Hall

Meet The Stars event

Guests participate in the Meet The Stars eclipse preview event Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, on campus at IU South Bend. (Photo by Michael Caterin Hands-on activities for all ages designed to build intuitive understanding of eclipse phenomena, eclipse overview presentations and observatory tours. Coordinated by Terri Hebert from the School of Education and Henry Scott and Jerry Hinnefeld from the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Open to the public.



Wednesday, April 3 from 2:30-4 p.m. in the University Grill

Lecture: How Early Cultures Explained an Eclipse

Before scientific astronomy, how did people account for the shadow that happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth? Hear about some of the myths and folklore people around the world told themselves when their world went briefly dark.

Monday, April 8 from 1:30-4 p.m. on the lawn between Student Activity Center and Northside Hall

Solar Eclipse Viewing Party

Lawn games, “Sun Chip” snacks and free solar eclipse glasses. Coordinated by Office of Student Life and Titan Productions. Open to the public.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • A solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon when the moon passes between the sun and earth. It’s a relatively rare phenomenon. 
  • The last total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. happened in August 2017. It will be 20 years until the next one on August 23, 2044.
  • The path of totality on earth is narrow. For this eclipse it will take place in central Indiana. 
  • According to Astronomy magazine, around the three-quarters mark, you’ll start to notice that the shadows around you are getting sharper as the sun’s disk shrinks. At 85% you’ll be able to spot Venus just west-southwest of the sun. 
  • During an eclipse, animals and birds often prepare for sleep. Temperatures may also drop. 

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