Barry McNamara  |  Published April 04, 2024

When Day Is Night

Monmouth graduate and NASA partner Antonetta Axup ’18 shares tips for viewing April 8 solar eclipse.

IT'S HAPPENING MONDAY: The solar eclipse, which has a path of totality comes within a few hours of Monmouth, will occur April 8. IT'S HAPPENING MONDAY: The solar eclipse, which has a path of totality comes within a few hours of Monmouth, will occur April 8.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College is about three hours north and/or west of the closest part of the path of totality for the solar eclipse that will be visible in the eastern half of the United States on April 8.

Monmouth graduate Antonetta Axup ’18 strongly recommends getting in your car and making that drive, whether it be to just south of St. Louis, to Indianapolis, or to the Illinois-Indiana state line, where a group of around 20 Monmouth students and faculty, including physics professor Ashwani Kumar, plan to travel. A total eclipse will be visible in those sections of the Midwest at around 2 p.m. Central time.

“As of now we plan to go to Vincennes, but it could still change depending on the weather forecast,” said Kumar. “We have two vans and can still accommodate a few more passengers.”

“If you have a chance to drive to a place that is in the path of totality, definitely try to make that happen,” said Axup, who is an official NASA Partner Eclipse Ambassador.

Like night and day

“We Eclipse Ambassadors have a joke about the difference between 99% coverage and 100% totality – it’s as different as day and night,” said Axup, a secondary education teacher and the sixth-grade science lead for the professional learning community in the Dallas-Fort Worth school district. “Jokes aside, it’s a true statement. Ninety-nine percent coverage will be dark, but still too bright for one to be able to see any constellations or planets. One hundred percent totality goes completely dark, meaning you will be able to see some planets and constellations in the sky.”

“We Eclipse Ambassadors have a joke about the difference between 99% coverage and 100% totality – it’s as different as day and night.” – Antonetta Axup

Axup said she stumbled upon her NASA partnership.

“In the sixth grade science curriculum, there is a whole unit about ‘Sun, Earth and the Moon,’ and another all about the universe,” she said. “I was searching online for different educator collaboration opportunities and stumbled upon the NASA Partner Eclipse Ambassadors through the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. I applied in the fall of 2022 and was accepted in March 2023.”

ANTONETTA AXUP: The 2018 graduate is a teacher in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. ANTONETTA AXUP: The 2018 graduate is a teacher in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.In her role, which began with an annular solar eclipse last October, Axup said the goal is to “educate the public about what eclipses are, the different types of eclipses (total vs. annular) and how to safely view them, while also providing certified eclipse-viewing glasses at in-person events.”

“We usually engage with the public through in-person programming,” she said.

One program Axup led was alongside a STEM festival hosted by her school district, and another was an event at the local library for its Problem Solver’s Guild. In addition to learning about eclipses, the children there were able to make their own pinhole projectors using construction paper as a way to explore the shadows that will occur during the eclipse.

Tips and fun facts

Axup shared some viewing strategies, as well as some “fun facts” about eclipses, including advice to “listen for night sounds, such as more bird calls and crickets chirping.”

“If you are not on the path of totality, you can still see an amazing celestial event,” she said. “Just make sure you have certified eclipse viewing glasses. Sunglasses will not keep your eyes safe during an eclipse. During the partial eclipse, your certified eclipse viewing glasses must be worn whenever you are looking up to prevent retinal burns, known as eclipse blindness. Your glasses are certified if they have the official International Safety Standard (ISO) marking and that it is certified for 12312-2, or as ISO 12312-2:2015.”

Those who do not have glasses can observe the eclipse using a pinhole projector or a pinhole viewer.

“If you are not on the path of totality, you can still see an amazing celestial event. Just make sure you have certified eclipse viewing glasses. Sunglasses will not keep your eyes safe during an eclipse.” – Antonetta Axup

“For the pinhole projector, take a piece of paper, punch holes in it with whatever design you wish, and hold the paper out so that it makes a shadow on the ground,” said Axup. “Have the sun to your back and look at the shadows that your paper and holes are making. During the eclipse, you will see crescents form in the shadows.”
            
A cardboard box (such as a cereal box) is needed for a pinhole viewer, as well as a piece of white paper and some aluminum foil. Axup said an internet search for “cereal box pinhole viewer” will lead to easy directions or a video tutorial.

She reported that solar eclipses only happen during the new moon phase of the lunar cycle, and that whenever there is a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse always happens either in the months before or after the solar eclipse and vice versa. The upcoming lunar eclipse will happen in September as a partial lunar eclipse, with only a small sliver of the moon looking red in color. It will be visible in most of the United States.

“Many cultures around the world have different views about eclipses,” said Axup. “Some cultures fear them as a bad omen, some welcome them as a way to usher in new beginnings and communication with deities, and some see them as a time to be solemn and reverent.”

Kumar’s take

“In 2017, we had four vans and went to an area close to Farmington,” said Kumar. “It was a mesmerizing experience. I wanted to observe several things like the drop in temperature, change in wind speed, colors we observed and wavy shadows, but you forget everything and just keep looking at the eclipse.”

“It is fascinating that we can explain and predict in advance when the eclipse will happen. This fascination is nothing compared to when you actually see it happening.” – Ashwani Kumar

Kumar teaches astronomy at Monmouth, and eclipses are definitely on his syllabus.

“I get excited about this wonderful natural phenomenon every year when we talk about it in class,” he said. “It is fascinating that we can explain and predict in advance when the eclipse will happen. This fascination is nothing compared to when you actually see it happening. I feel lucky to be able to see two solar eclipses in the region, given the next one is 21 years from now.”

That eclipse will take place Aug. 23, 2044.

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