By now, most people are aware that a solar eclipse is occurring on Monday, August 21. For our area, the eclipse will be around 10:15 – 10:30 a.m. Since the last full solar eclipse in the United States happened back in 1979, many people are experiencing a solar eclipse for the first time. Dr. Andrea Kunder, new physics professor at Saint Martin’s University, has all the tips you need to view the eclipse, whether you are traveling to the path of totality or just going to peek at it through your office window.
Kunder is a physics professor with a vast amount of astronomy and astrophysics training. It was her astronomy professor at Willamette University – where she received her undergraduate degree – that sparked her interest in the field. After receiving her Ph.D. from Dartmouth College, Kunder was a post-doctorate fellow for four years in La Serena, Chile, where the U.S. National Observatory houses its large telescopes. Next, she spent another four years as a post-doc fellow at a research institute in Germany. During those eight years she was researching the formation of the Milky Way galaxy.
“Just like archeologists use fossils to study the formation of the Earth, I was using the old stars in the Milky Way galaxy to try to understand how the galaxy formed,” Kunder explains. “The universe is so unexplored – it’s the one place you can always discover something. It’s very exciting.”
After her travels, Kunder came back home to the Thurston County area to be near her family. Appropriately, she will start her new position at Saint Martin’s University on August 21. She is excited to be teaching after all her years of research.
“What I like about teaching is the interaction with people,” Kunder says. “And I’d like to give back to the community through the dissemination of information to students. It makes me feel good about what I am doing and proves to me it has value to society. The people who have impacted my life the most are my teachers and I think what a treat it would be to hopefully be able to do the same for someone else.”
When she is not star-gazing, Kunder enjoys spending time with her family, which includes her husband and three children, ages five, three, and one. She especially likes to go camping and hiking.
2017 Solar Eclipse Fun Facts
During her studies, Kunder has learned a lot about solar eclipses. Here are some of her favorite facts:
- During a total solar eclipse, the sun, the moon and the Earth are perfectly aligned.
- There is no huge city in the path of totality. The largest city is Nashville, Tennessee, and it has a population of 600,000.
- Only during a total solar eclipse can you see the stars during daytime, as well as strange colors in the sky and broken beads along the dwindling edge of the sun, which are caused by the jagged mountains on the moon.
- You will also be able to see Venus and Jupiter along the plane of the solar system.
- No photo or video can compare to seeing a total solar eclipse yourself. A camera lens cannot capture the extraordinarily intricate detail visible to the human eye.
- Looking at the sun will damage your eyes, even when the sun is partially blocked by the moon, like during an eclipse.
- Babylonians and the ancient Chinese were able to predict solar eclipses as early as 2500 BCE, although where exactly a total eclipse was visible was not always certain.
2017 Solar Eclipse Viewing Tips
Kunder has some professional tips and tricks for anyone who wants to view the solar eclipse.
We will only see a partial eclipse in our area. This link shows what those in Lacey and the surrounding area will see. To view a full eclipse, Kunder recommends heading down to the Willamette Valley. The first place to experience totality in the continental U.S. will be Government Point, Oregon, at 10:15:56.5 a.m. The darkness of the total eclipse will last 1 minute, 58.5 seconds.
To view the eclipse, obtain eclipse glasses with ISO 12312-2, or either a welding mask or glasses with number 14 welding glass. It is NOT recommended to look at the sun through an X-ray film print. Believe it or not, Kunder saw people looking through X-ray film prints while watching a partial solar eclipse in Chile. “It was the first time I saw a partial eclipse,” she says. “We saw people on the beach trying to view the eclipse through X-rays. But it’s not a good idea, it won’t protect your eyes from the sun.”
Luckily for us, the solar eclipse is happening during the summer, when the sun is high. “In June the sun is at its highest,” Kunder says, “So August is a pretty good time for a solar eclipse because the sun will be pretty high, probably 60 or 70 degrees above the horizon.” If you are staying in our area, Kunder says you can tell now if you will be able to see the eclipse by looking out your window or in your backyard at around 10:00 a.m. If you can see the sun, you will be able to see the eclipse on August 21.
If you are planning on taking pictures, Kunder says be sure you keep your glasses on when you look through the lens. She has taken pictures of partial eclipses and says the hardest part is the focus. “Because of the brightness of the sun, if you have auto-focus it can be tricky to get the photos to turn out right,” Kunder says. “So you may have to play with the focus a bit ahead of time.”
Above all, she says, don’t miss it. This is something that doesn’t happen very often and it’s exciting. So even if you just get a quick ten-minute break from work to look at it for a minute or two, it’s going to be well worth it.