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Scientists and students studied the eclipse at the BYU-Idaho Agricultural Center.

August 21, 2017
Writer: David Payne

While most who watched the total solar eclipse was satisfied to see the event and maybe take some pictures or video, there were groups of scientists who were trying to learn as much as possible during the brief time when the moon swallows the sun. 

The BYU-Idaho Agricultural Center hosted a few of these groups from universities and foreign countries. Joe Shaw, a physics professor at Montana State University was in attendance with a team of students and colleagues.

"We're measuring the brightness and the polarization of the sky. That's like you would see with polarized sunglasses except we are using all sky imaging cameras and scanning instruments," said Shaw. "All kinds of fancy toys we designed and built ourselves. 

While seeing a total solar eclipse is spectacular all in itself, Shaw was able to watch with his 78-year-old father, which made it even more special.

"He's a retired professor of physics from the University of Alaska," said Shaw. "He did a version of our experiment in 1973 and we're following up from his experiment and answering new questions."

Other groups at the Agricultural Center came from places like Denmark, Holland, and Germany. Michael Vulner, a German scientist, said he and his family had this date on their calendar for a while.

"This trip was planned 18 years ago...I saw the last one in Germany. It lasted about the same time with the constellation of sun, moon, and earth and I decided to come here anytime there is an eclipse," said Vulner. 

Zach Brasier, a BYU-Idaho student studying physics, was also at the Agricultural Center with a team of 20-25 other students. 

"We're going to be taking an image of the solar corona, so the outer layers of the sun. We have other people looking at the polarization of the sun, we have lots of telescopes running, so lots of different things," said Brasier. 

Braiser said he is glad to be a student at BYU-Idaho at this particular time so he could be a part of these experiments. 

"I've never seen one before and I'll probably never see one again," said Brasier. 

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