A Solar Eclipse Extravaganza
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photos // Submitted and Courtesy of Link Observatory Space Science Institute
Libraries across the nation are planning events that are literally centered around the Sun and the impending solar eclipse that will take place August 21. The Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library is hosting educational events leading up to the main viewing event at the library, “Solar Eclipse Streaming.” At these events, eclipse glasses will be distributed for free on a first-come, first serve basis.
More than two million pairs of eclipse glasses are being distributed free through public libraries in the U.S. for the eclipse of the Sun. The project is supported, in part, by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation with additional help from Google, National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. The eclipse project was conceived by three astronomers, Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College), Dennis Schatz (Pacific Science Center) and Douglas Duncan (University of Colorado). Together they brought the idea to Paul Dusenbery, Director of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL). NCIL manages the STAR Library Education Network (STAR_Net), supported by NASA, NSF and other organizations, to help libraries with STEM programming.
Youth Librarian Julie Myers applied to STAR_Net for the grant and to receive the glasses to share with the local community.
“The state library sent out an email informing libraries that STAR_Net was doing this nationwide project, so I applied, and we were awarded the grant and supplies,” Myers said. “To get the glasses, we had to commit to offer related programs and generate excitement leading up to the eclipse. We have some fun programs coming up. We have committed to giving the local schools 25 kits. Each kit contains 30 pairs of eclipse glasses with instructions. The remaining glasses will be given away to our patrons at our upcoming events on a first-come, first-serve basis.”
Myers announced that one of the unique solar eclipse events that the library will be hosting will take place August 14. The event is “Eclipse Across America: Standing in the Shadow of the Moon” with Greg McCauley, executive director, CEO and co-founder of the Link Observatory Space Science Institute (LOSSI) in Indiana. The family-friendly, multi-media presentation will explore the science behind solar eclipses.
LOSSI, founded in 2012, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to informal science education and public engagement programs in NASA missions, astronomy and space exploration.
McCauley worked for NASA at the Manned Spacecraft Center (now Johnson Space Center) in Houston, Texas, in the Mission Planning and Analysis Division for the lunar missions of Apollo 15 and 16 and was a member of the Lunar Launch Team for Apollo 17. McCauley serves as a Solar System Ambassador for NASA/JPL and lectures throughout central Indiana on planetary exploration. The Solar System Ambassadors Program is sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, an operating division of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and a lead research and development center for NASA.
“I was born and raised in Kokomo,” McCauley said. “I graduated in 1969, the year when Neil Armstrong walked down the ladder onto Tranquility Base. I was a child of the space race. The space race started in 1957 with the launching of Sputnik 1, and that was a huge deal. We countered that launch by the Russians with Explorer 1, our first satellite, and then one thing led to another. Kennedy made his famous speech that we would have humans on the moon by the end of that decade. NASA was relatively new then. It was developed in 1957, and that started the space race that changed the world. When I was a kid, we watched the launches from school, and it was such a big thing.”
McCauley knew he had to be part of the program in some way. He graduated from Purdue University and had “this feeling” that he had to be a part of space exploration. “I was a kid from Kokomo, Indiana, so how was I supposed to accomplish this?” he asked. “I’ll tell you what I tell students in our lectures: the way to be successful at whatever you want to do in your life is a simple equation: Dream big, work hard and follow a plan.”
Per McCauley, the U.S. is ranked 20th globally in science and technology. Indiana is ranked in the bottom third in STEM education. He and his colleagues are committed to working with educators informally and with their partners such as NASA to re energize students on STEM subjects and to cultivate ingenuity and wonderment.
“When I was growing up, the astronauts were our heroes,” McCauley said. “Today, kids have different heroes. I believe that is part of the challenge. We need to change who our kids’ heroes are, and if we once again had explorers and space explorers that became the new role models, we will once again have people excited about exploring outer space. We are in the beginning of a new space race. There are 386 scheduled rocket launches by 14 countries by the end of 2020. Five months ago, China declared that by 2030, they would dominate space exploration. I remember in 1957, Russia said that very same thing.”
McCauley is dismayed at the nation’s and the state’s STEM rankings. “At the Link Observatory, we do not find that acceptable, so we’ve decided to do something about it. It is our goal to propel the state of Indiana to a leadership role in STEM education in the U.S. I believe that we can do that by getting kids engaged and bringing NASA into the classroom to get that emotional connection to human space exploration once again.”
The funding for the Eclipse Across America event with Greg McCauley came from the Defalque Memorial Fund. It is a fund maintained by the Defalque family to honor John Defalque, a former Library shelver who passed away in 1990. The fund is designed to support special children’s educational events offered at the Library.
For a complete listing of the library’s free solar eclipse events throughout August, visit zionsvillelibrary.org. For more information on the Link Observatory Space Science Institute, visit linkobservatory.org.