For the first time in close to 100 years our region experienced a total solar eclipse. For many of us, the experience was glowing with science, was a spiritual moment, and was deeply moving. The Astronomy Club was excited to host an event at our stadium by allowing the Rockhurst Community to observe the eclipse and providing solar glasses.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is in the new moon phase and it moves across the face of the sun. This event is rare because the moon has an odd orbit that doesn’t always block the sun when it is in the new moon phase. Due to the orbital mechanics of the moon and the earth, the earth lined up perfectly with the moon and sun, casting the moon’s shadow over the United States.
Following some concerning weather, the eclipse started at 11:43 am, which was right on time. At 12:30 pm, students began moving down to the stadium while the moon had already moved over about half the face of the sun. While walking down to the stadium the students were instructed not to look up, but rather focus on their senses, at how the shadows look different, listen for birds changing the way they behave, and feeling for a drop in the temperature. Once our students received their glasses, they could see this impressive event and were instantly amazed. Rockhurst was just south of the path of totality so we were not able to take off our glasses at any point in time to look at the sun, but we experienced a phenomenal natural event.
While the event was taking place, members of the Astronomy Club were operating two telescopes, capturing pictures of the eclipse. They were challenged in not only finding the sun through the telescopes’ solar filters, but also keep the sun in view. Using cameras that were attached to the telescopes, which were connected to a computer, this challenge was met as we captured some incredible pictures of the eclipse, the sun, and sun spots.
Students in my Astronomy Class were busy collecting data during the eclipse. Each student build a solar projector and collected measurements while the moon moved across the face of the sun. We searched for shadow bands, collected data on luminosity and temperature, and viewed the eclipse through other tools. Our data was submitted to NASA as a part of a Citizen Science Project.
For our community, remembering we are in the presence of God was important during the eclipse. It gave our community the opportunity to behold His creation in its glory before us. We paused for a moment and prayed an Examen together, while the moon was eclipsing in front of us. A powerful moment for all.
For our community, this rare event encapsulated each aspect of our Graduate at Graduation motto. A once in a lifetime experience that displayed the majesty of science and the grandeur of God all at once.