Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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Professor Parkinson Leads Eclipse Event in Oregon

Posted: September 19, 2017

Professor Parkinson Leads Eclipse Event in Oregon Professor Parkinson addresses the crowd from the viewing platform

This past August, Climate & Space professor Chris Parkinson was invited to the Delphian School in Sheridan, OR to present a lecture for their Solar Eclipse Event. Over 800 people attended the event, which took place on the picturesque school campus in the foothills of the western Willamette Valley.

Professor Parkinson acted as the master of ceremonies for the event, and “Conductor of the Eclipse” in coordinating the timing of the music leading into eclipse totality. As the celestial event unfolded, Chris used the PA system to share historical eclipse facts and scientific insight about the phenomenon. For those in attendance without eclipse viewing glasses, Chris helped them to create a camera obscura pinhole device to safely view the eclipse. Once the eclipse was over, he gave a lecture entitled “Eclipses, Transits, and Occultations” for the audience.

Chris’s participation in the program happened through a connection with a friend:

“A very good friend of mine was telling me about the eclipse he saw at his school (Delphian School) way back in 1979. When he described what they did with the few students there back then, and that one of the teachers gave a wee talk. I said to him, ‘I could do that,’ and mentioned to him that if the school was interested, I would be happy to give a talk and conduct the actual observation. The rest is history and a wonderful event ensued that was truly remarkable on all fronts.”

The school chose well. Professor Parkinson has an expertise in planetary and extrasolar planetary transits, as well as spacecraft stellar and solar occultation, including Venus Express, Cassini, Galileo, and Voyager. In 2012, he traveled to Svalbad, Norway to make observations as the planet Venus crossed the sun, and his research has included many other planetary transits, occultations, and lunar and solar eclipses similar to the August eclipse.

“The eclipse was totally AWESOME in every aspect,” says Professor Parkinson.
”We got a full corona during totality ending in a beautiful diamond ring as totality ended. The crowd was fantastic and we had an amazing time bonding during a magnificent and spiritually moving celestial event. We were able to perfectly time the ending of ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ by Richard Strauss just when totality occurred and the corona popped out.”

According to the Delphian School, the event was a resounding success. Other activities included an exhibit of NASA Moon Rocks and rocket launches by members of the Oregon Rocketry Club. The school posted a gallery of photos from the event here.

“I cannot adequately express the feeling of awe and wonderment that ensued [at the event],” says Chris. “I hope I never lose that feeling of wonder as I continue looking up and exploring our solar system and universe!”