Solar eclipse image taken by student

Image of the solar eclipse taken by David Matheny, physics major. 

By Roanoke College News

Students, faculty serve as Solar Eclipse Ambassadors

On Aug. 21, as groups of students gathered on campus to watch the eclipse, members of the Roanoke College Physics Group were serving as eclipse ambassadors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, an official NASA partner site for the solar eclipse. Located near Cherokee, North Carolina, the park was in the path of totality, the zone across the United States where the sun was totally blocked by the moon at the height of the eclipse.

Dr. Matthew Fleenor, associate professor of physics at Roanoke, said the park invited astronomers from the surrounding area to volunteer since a large influx of visitors was expected in the path of totality. Ambassadors helped visitors safely view the total eclipse through telescopes outfitted with solar filters.

"We are happy to serve as ambassadors for science," Fleenor said before heading down to the national park to see the first total solar eclipse in the general southeastern part of the country since 1979. "We're particularly excited to take part in the public reception of the eclipse in such a beautiful area, trying to help others appreciate and understand the science of the eclipse. This outreach event is in line with the significant commitment that Roanoke physics has made to the public understanding of science, as we engage in several events each year to facilitate scientific literacy for the public."

On the morning of the eclipse, Fleenor started a journal of the day's events. He continued jotting down notes throughout the day, closing with this:

4:00 p.m.: At this time, the sun continued its uninterrupted path across the daytime sky. The eclipse was officially over as we took the last picture with the camera-attached telescope. We loaded up the van and began our journey back to Salem. I must have clapped my hands audibly 10 times within the next two hours as we rode in the car. My reflection on the eclipse was so vivid that it was worthy of response.

Student Eclipse Ambassadors