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DSU physics professor to host solar eclipse event

August 18, 2017

Nature is providing a historic astrology lesson on the first day of fall classes at Dakota State University.

A rare solar eclipse will be taking place Monday, and to mark the occasion, DSU physics professor Dr. James Maloney is hosting a program about the eclipse. It will begin with a short program at noon on August 21 in the Habeger Science Center auditorium; attendees will then move outdoors to view the event. A limited number of safety glasses will be available for attendees’ use. In the case of inclement weather, he will show a webcast of the eclipse after the presentation.

“Hopefully those who don’t understand the eclipse will get a better idea of what happens and why this is a special event.”

Solar eclipses happen every year or year and a half somewhere in the world, Maloney said, but to have one moving coast-to-coast entirely across the United States is “super rare.” The last continent-wide total solar eclipse visible from within the United States took place in 1776.

South Dakota is in a lucky position to view the eclipse, he said. He has been traveling in the western U.S. this summer, and many locations west of Billings, Montana are cloudy with smoke from wildfires.

While South Dakota is not in the “path of totality” to see the full total eclipse, in Madison it will be about 94-95 percent, he said. The maximum eclipse will happen here just after 1 p.m., and will last for about two and a half minutes. The entire event will take about an hour and a half, he said, with the effects most visible a half-hour before and a half-hour after the maximum eclipse.

Maloney’s presentation will include an overview of the geometry and stages of eclipses, along with a discussion regarding the safety issues in viewing the eclipse. While his experience is in accelerator physics, he has taught astronomy, and will be teaching it again, with a new two-semester astronomy program at DSU beginning in the spring semester. “This will be a nice addition for the students,” he said.

The public, along with DSU students, faculty and staff, are welcome to attend the event.