Science of solar eclipse topic of Prineville talk

About 200 turn out for professor's presentation

Eclipse has lots of scientific significance

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Scott Fisher, a physics professor at the University of Oregon, gave a presentation Thursday night for about 200 people at Crook County High School on the scientific significance of the upcoming eclipse in August.

Solar eclipses can only be seen in the parts of the world over which the moon is traveling, and they only occur in one spot once or twice in a lifetime. The last total solar eclipse to pass over Central Oregon was in 1979.

Fisher, outreach coordinator for the Pine Mountain Observatory east of Bend, also brought up several things to look for, like Bailey's Beads, which are little bright spots on the edge of the moon that are actually valleys in between the moon's mountains.

But what he's looking forward to most is being able to see the stars in what would otherwise be broad daylight.

"As a nighttime astronomer, there's something about this idea of having a little two-minute night that happens at 10 in the morning," Fisher said.

Animals may actually go to sleep during that two-minute period, thinking night is falling.

Fisher also points to the corona, which is the outermost layer of the sun, as another thing he's looking forward to seeing. You can only see the corona during an eclipse because it's otherwise overpowered by the rest of the sun's light.

During the eclipse, he's taking his students to Madras to launch a balloon equipped with a GoPro camera and a gamma ray detector.

"As the balloon flies up, we're going to get some great pictures of the eclipse," he said. "But also sort of basic atmospheric research."

He said a team of undergraduates has never before assembled equipment that has gone into the atmosphere and measured gamma ray levels during an eclipse.

Fisher also pointed out one of the main reasons Central Oregon in particular will be flooded with visitors -- of all the cities and town the eclipse passes over, we have the highest chance of clear skies.

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