Solar Eclipse

To take full advantage of the first total solar eclipse in Rexburg since 1889, the Department of Physics is participating in seven projects, many of which involve collaboration with other organizations.

July 17, 2017
Writer: Dain Knudson

To take full advantage of the first total solar eclipse in Rexburg since 1889, the Department of Physics is participating in seven projects, many of which involve collaboration with other organizations. 

Stephen McNeil, Department of Physics chair, says the projects are a major benefit to physics students at BYU-Idaho. 

"It has been a great opportunity for our students to work and cooperate with other schools. Through the projects, we have been able to work together to make something bigger," McNeil said. "We have more students involved in projects this semester than ever before. These projects have been nice in that freshmen and sophomores have been able to be involved, where normally we only have juniors or seniors involved in research. It has been a nice stepping-stone for mentored student research."

Some of the projects include: 

Sound Scapes: Faculty member Jon Johnson will oversee an acoustical experiment that involves setting up microphones at several areas within the path of totality to record how the sounds in nature change during the eclipse (day animals get quiet, night animals start to awaken, etc). This will be done in collaboration with Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Citizen CATE: Students involved in the Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse experiment will film the solar corona during totality. This video will then be submitted to the National Solar Observatory that will use several clips and make a full-length, 90-minute film looking at changes in the inner solar corona. 

Sky-polarization Measurements: Dr. Joseph Shaw from Montana State University and students from BYU-Idaho will be conducting an experiment near campus where they will measure the polarization of the sky during the eclipse.  

NASA Aeronet Project: Brother Todd Lines is actively engaged with students working on the NASA Aeronet project. The AERONET (AErosol RObotic NETwork) program is a federation of ground-based remote sensing aerosol networks established by NASA. The program provides a long-term, continuous public domain database of aerosol optical, microphysical and radiative properties for aerosol research and characterization.

Eclipse Megamovie Project: Brother Jon Johnson is leading the Eclipse Megamovie Project which will gather images of the 2017 total solar eclipse from over 1,000 volunteer photographers and amateur astronomers. These media assets will be stitched together to create an expanded and continuous view of the total eclipse as it crosses the United States.

Modern Eddington Experiment: BYU-Idaho students will be collaborating with several organizations by taking high-powered images of the star field around the eclipsed sun, and will use their own data to test whether Einstein's prediction of gravitational bending of light is true. 

If you are interested in being involved in any of these projects, or would like to know any more about them, visit bit.ly/BYUIEclipse17.  Events on the Saturday before the eclipse can be found at www.byui.edu/eclipse-2017.