Department of Physics and Astronomy holds event for solar eclipse


Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated the date of the solar eclipse. The story has been corrected.

The TCU Department of Physics and Astronomy took advantage of a rare astronomical phenomena Oct. 23: a solar eclipse.

Although it only blocked out a portion of the sun—a partial eclipse—the department nevertheless brought out all their gadgets to allow TCU students and faculty to view the event in the safest way possible.

The astronomical event started around 4:50 p.m. and continued through sunset.

Physics and astronomy professors set up three telescopes. 

One was a traditional lens with a peephole for viewing. People waited in line to get a chance to see the eclipse. 

Another telescope, modified by a physics and astronomy professor, had a mounted video camera on the lens and projected the image of the sun onto a screen to show the slowly growing shadow of the eclipse.

The third telescope, called a ‘Sunspotter,’ used a small magnifying glass to display the image on a small sheet of paper.

But the eclipse wasn’t the only thing to see or hear about. The department used this event to advertise a new class they’re offering in the spring.

The class is Physics 10263: Cosmic Origins. It “will examine the development of human understanding of the critical events in the origin and evolution of the Universe,” according to the description in the TCU catalog.

“It’s basically how we found out how we were able to know the history of the universe,” said Kat Barger, assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department. “It’s going to be really cool.”

About 50 people attended the event, though the crowd dwindled when some realized they weren’t able to look directly at the eclipse and had to wait in line for the telescopes. Viewing safety was the department’s biggest concern. 

Still, a number of people stayed and got to see solar flares, some of which have been causing problems for communication systems on earth.

The next solar eclipse in North America won’t be seen again until April 2017.