VIDEO: From near and far, CSU celebrates total solar eclipse

Science Outreach Scholars and the Little Shop of Physics traveled to Mitchell, Nebraska to share science and view the total solar eclipse. See highlights of their day, and footage from the moment of totality. Video by Ron Bend.

Day 1 of the 2017-18 academic year at Colorado State University coincided with a rare total solar eclipse across North America. Many hundreds of students, faculty and staff hit pause to gaze upward and share the experience as a community.

The Little Shop of Physics science outreach program organized three separate CSU events themed around viewing the eclipse ­– two several hours north of Fort Collins in the path of totality, and one on campus, where spectators cheered near-complete totality.

In weeks leading up to the eclipse, Little Shop shared 20,000 pairs of eclipse glasses with campus, including 4,000 handed out during Ram Welcome, and 7,000 (gone within 40 minutes) the morning of the eclipse. In addition, CSU donated 30,000 pairs to the Poudre School District, which were funded by the Earth System Modeling and Education Institute.

Mitchell, Nebraska

Little Shop Teacher in Residence Sheila Ferguson led a team of about 60 from the College of Natural Sciences to Mitchell, Nebraska, for a full day of science outreach. The students, all Science Outreach Scholars led by CNS Learning Community Coordinator Allie Keller, shared dozens of hands-on experiments with Mitchell school district students.

CSU astronomy instructor Emily Hardegree-Ullman brought telescopes for people to view the eclipse directly. Viewers reported that, during totality, bats flew from the school roost.

“The outreach scholars and teaching assistants were such good role models for the Mitchell students,” Ferguson said. “Teachers told us that the students couldn’t stop talking about their experiences.”

Alliance, Nebraska 

Little Shop of Physics team members Heather Michalak and Adam Pearlstein led a 25-member student team to Alliance, Nebraska. Partnering with the City of Alliance, they set up a science outreach station at Carhenge, which was expecting 25,000 visitors for the eclipse, among them Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Michalak reported that, during totality, the temperature dropped about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Venus appeared. Colorado State Astronomy Club President Norm Revere pointed to the constellation Leo, just visible behind the sun.

“I understand now why people chase total eclipses,” Michalak said.

The Astronomy Club is planning an on-campus event for the Jan. 31, 2018, total lunar eclipse, happening in the chilly hours before sunrise.

Photos by John Eisele and Bill Cotton unless otherwise indicated. 

Hundreds gather for on-campus party

In northern Colorado, it wasn’t totality, but it was pretty good. Students, faculty and staff gathered on the intramural fields for cloud-free viewing of a 95 percent solar eclipse. Little Shop of Physics staff and volunteers brought telescopes, solar-powered crickets and other family-friendly activities to celebrate the celestial event.

Crowds began milling around 10:30 a.m., in preparation for peak coverage at 11:47 a.m. Students led a countdown. Cheers erupted.

“The main goal of all of the events was to use this unique opportunity, when much of the country was outside, looking up to the sky, to engage the public, to give people a chance to safely experience this remarkable celestial event,” said Little Shop Director Brian Jones, who led the on-campus activities.

And for those who shared in the totality events, it was a day no one will forget.

“For the students from the CNS learning Community, this was their first day in college,” Jones said. “They witnessed a total solar eclipse, and had a chance to share science with students. What a way to start! … Now, what are we going to do for their second day?”

On-campus viewers were treated to a 95 percent solar eclipse. Video by Jason Russell.