Solar Eclipse Is Coming To Alexandria!

Hello Alexandria folks!

Are you planning to be outside Monday afternoon on August 21st? Don’t miss the Great American Eclipse of 2017. You might have to wait quite a long time before you get another chance. Check out here to see when is the next time you can see an eclipse in North America.

It has been indeed a long time since a full eclipse swept across the entire United States.  And now, we are right smack in the middle of it. Well, somewhat in the middle of it! It actually misses us by 400 miles. If you want to get the full experience, you will have to drive down all the way to South Carolina. For the rest of us who remain here for the first day of fall classes, the eclipse will be only partial.

What, When, Where

According to the United States Naval Observatory, we get to enjoy a partial eclipse of 81% here at Alexandria on Monday, August 21. It begins at 1:17 pm and it ends at 4:01 pm. The maximum will occur between 2:41 and 2:43 pm. Here is a short  simulation that gives an idea of what to expect.

The How Of It

Remember: do NOT  look directly at the Sun without proper protective eyeware. Unfortunately, all safety shades have been sold out everywhere for at least a week (and yes, that includes even online vendors).  The good news is that you can still enjoy the eclipse even without shades.

Just bring two sheets of opaque cardboard paper with you and get ready to look down at the ground rather than up in the sky. Place the first sheet on the ground, that will be your screen on which you will be viewing the eclipse. Make a small round tiny hole (with a needle, pushpin, etc.) on the second piece paper, hold it above the first paper and project the solar eclipse through the hole. Here is a nice detailed explanation of how to do it.

A Bit Of Science


So, how exactly do solar eclipses occur? In short, it happens because of an interesting coincidence.  Even though the Moon is about 400 smaller in diameter than the Sun, it is actually 400 times closer to the Earth than the Sun. So, on Earth both bodies appear to have the same size. When the Moon crosses in front of the Sun during its motion, it blocks it from view.  You can read more about the conditions in this easy-to-read popular article describing why we get solar eclipses.

See For Yourself

A solar eclipse is not only an astronomical phenomenon. There are plenty of exciting things happening on the ground, as well. The day darkens. If the eclipse is close to full, you might even see stars in the sky. The temperature drops. The birds change their chirping.  If you are next to trees, you can see tiny little crescents appear on the ground:  the pinhole images produced by holes in the leaves.  In short, there will be plenty to see during the eclipse.  And, if you want to help NASA, contribute your eclipse observations through the Globe Observer app. 



Changes in the Friday PHY 232 Section

We are excited to welcome Dr. Catherine Rastovski to the Physics Department at the Alexandria campus. She will be teaching with us part time and will be taking over the PHY 232 section scheduled to run on Fridays this fall.
Dr. Rastovski has been teaching and doing physics outreach for almost 20 years.  A native of the greater Chicago area, she earned her M.S. in physics from the University of Illinois at Chicago and taught physics for several years in northern Indiana.  She received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Notre Dame in 2014.  Dr. Rastovski’s current favorite science activity is volunteering with the RESET organization bringing fun science experiments to the third graders at Jefferson-Houston Elementary school.

Physics 231 On Saturdays

We are excited to announce that we will have a new physics instructor at Alexandria for the fall semester.  Dr. Alejandro de la Puente is joining the Alexandria Physics faculty as a part time Assistant Professor and will be teaching the Saturday PHY 231 section.

Dr. de la Puente received Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame du Lac, and is a  High Energy Theoretical Particle Physicist. He is currently a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow serving in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Division of Undergraduate Studies at the National Science Foundation. His research has focused on building and studying new physics models to address the nature of dark matter, the naturalness of the Higgs boson, and the mechanism for neutrino mass generation.

Dr. de la Puente has a  passion for education that has allowed him to organize High Energy Physics outreach activities in Latin America and he is a spokesperson for Instituto Apoyo, a non-profit organization with a mission to design and implement educational solutions to promote inclusive social development in Peru. He is working to design and promote new ways to improve undergraduate STEM education is the United States, identifying and studying best practices to increase retention and diversity in all STEM fields.