04:57 AM

Total eclipse in the hearts of astronomy fans at Ohio State

On Aug. 21, the first total solar eclipse of the millennium will turn day into night across the heart of the United States, and interest in this astronomic event is peaking.

It was 1979 when the United States last witnessed a total eclipse, when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and blocks out the light of the sun. Hotel rooms in cities along the path of totality, where the eclipse will be most complete, have been booked for months. Astronomy experts are making regular appearances on local and national news.

The Ohio State University Libraries and the Ohio State chapter of Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society, hosted a presentation about the 2017 eclipse this week. More than 50 guests filled a large conference room (after swamping a smaller classroom) to listen to  Department of Astronomy graduate student Jamie Tayar discuss the science behind the eclipse.

Tayar is not surprised.

“The eclipse is very accessible this time. It’s going across the entire country and everybody in the U.S. is going to see something,” she said. “And it’s not a small something; it’s the sun being partially blocked out.”

The uniqueness of the event depends on three celestial bodies – the Earth, moon and sun -- lining up just so. Scientists from Ohio State and across the country will be traveling to locations in the path of totality to observe the eclipse.

“Eclipses are one of the oldest astronomical techniques. You sit around and wait for something to go in front of something else and you study it while it’s happening,” Tayar said.

Brian and Edith Hajek will take a cruise to see the eclipse

Sigma Xi member Brian Hajek and his wife, Edith, searched for rooms along the route of the eclipse but, failing to find any, they are headed out to sea.

“Royal Caribbean repurposed one of their cruises at the last minute so we jumped at the opportunity,” Hajek said. Normally the ship would head to the Caribbean, but it will now sit off the South Carolina coast in an attempt to let passengers observe the eclipse.

Both Hajeks came away from Tayar’s presentation more prepared for their trip and the eclipse. They also left armed with a pair of Ohio State-branded eclipse glasses. Eye safety is critical when staring at the sun.

“Researchers have done studies about eye damage during the most recent partial eclipse. That’s not a study you want to be a part of,” Tayar said.

Tayar expects to be in Nashville for the eclipse with a former classmate. She hopes the interest in the eclipse will serve as a gateway for people to learn more about astronomy.

“It’s a really accessible way to get people excited about science.”