Media Invitation: Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience in Madras, Oregon

What: Lowell Observatory invites members of the media to attend the Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience (LOSEE), a two-day event celebrating the August 21 total solar eclipse.

When: LOSEE will take place on August 20 and 21, 2017.

Where: The Lowell Observatory Eclipse Expedition will take place at the Madras High School football field and adjoining Performing Arts Center in Madras, Oregon.

Event Description: This will be the first total solar eclipse to stretch across the United States, from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans, since 1918. To celebrate, Lowell Observatory astronomers and educators are hosting this two-day, education-focused event that includes presentations by astronomers and a star party on the evening of August 21, and eclipse viewing, science demonstrations, and astronomer presentations on August 21. Plus, the Science Channel will be broadcasting live from our event to its worldwide network of tens of millions of followers on television, social media, and its website.

Complimentary Press Registration: Lowell Observatory offers complimentary press registration to working journalists, broadcasters, PIOs, and other media professionals. While press registration is available at the event, we recommend pre-registering. This will not only allow us to better plan, but also gives you the opportunity to receive relevant information that we will periodically share up until eclipse day.

To register contact Molly Baker via email at

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Historian

Astronomers Without Borders Offers Giveaway Of Solar Viewing Glasses To Underserved Communities

Astronomers_Without_BordersAstronomers Without Borders (AWB) is excited to announce that in celebration of the upcoming August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse, it will be providing over 100,000 solar viewing glasses to underserved communities across the United States.

The donation recipients will be selected from deserving groups serving minority based-schools, youth community centers, children’s hospitals and others through an online registration process on the AWB website.

“This eclipse is historic, with a huge effort underway by organizations across the country to prepare people for the experience and use this rare opportunity to teach science,” said Mike Simmons, President and Founder of AWB. “We’re very pleased to be able to provide access to eclipse viewing to those who might otherwise miss out, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors.”

This large giveaway is made possible by the generous donations of glasses from AWB partners Google (50,000 glasses), Big Kid Science with an additional contribution from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (50,000 glasses) and the American Astronomical Society (3,200 Eclipse Megamovie project glasses).

On August 21, 2017, a stunning total eclipse of the Sun will sweep across the continental U.S. from coast to coast for the first time in nearly a century. While lucky skywatchers located along a narrow corridor running from Oregon to South Carolina will witness the dramatic total eclipse, everyone across the country will have an opportunity to see, with proper eye protection, at least a partial eclipse.

AWB also has solar glasses available for purchase to the general public. All proceeds from sales go directly to support AWB international grassroots science outreach programs.

To apply to receive the eclipse glasses, visit the AWB Glasses Giveaway page.

Press Release by Astronomers Without Borders

“Totality by Big Kid Science” – Free App to Help Plan for The Great American Eclipse

Big Kid Science, an educational company founded by astrophysicist Dr. Jeffrey Bennett, has created a free, educational app to help people plan for the upcoming total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017 — the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States in almost four decades.

Eclipse_ AppTotality by Big Kid Science, now available for iOS in the App Store, shows how much of an eclipse you can see at any location, along with the local times at which the eclipse begins, reaches maximum, and ends on August 21. It also uses GPS to show you what you’ll see at your current location and to tell you the nearest locations at which you can see a total solar eclipse. It even offers driving directions if you choose to travel to see totality. The app also includes additional information about how to view the eclipse safely, how eclipses work, activities for families and teachers, and much more.

Developed by Germinate LLC, Totality’s underlying code was provided by Xavier Jubier, creator of sophisticated eclipse maps, including his well-known interactive Google map for the August 21 eclipse.

The iOS version of Totality is now available; an Android version will follow in a few weeks. Though the app is free, there are links to donate to the creators’ favorite nonprofits supporting space/astronomy education: Story Time from Space, Voyage, Astronomers Without Borders, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

To support safe viewing of the eclipse, app creator Big Kid Science, with an additional contribution from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), is donating 100,000 eclipse glasses, including 50,000 to Astronomers Without Borders for distribution to underserved schools across U.S.; 20,000 to Denver Public Schools; and 22,000 to Idaho Falls Public Schools, plus 5,000 more for eclipse-day events in Idaho Falls. The same glasses can also be purchased directly through the app at a discounted price. The Shop screen also offers a code with which you can get a 30% discount on Big Kid Science books.

Press Release by Big Kid Science


Astronomer Profile: Dr. Michael West, Deputy Director for Science

Note: Seven Lowell Observatory astronomers will participate in the 2017 Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience in Madras, Oregon on August 20-21. We will profile each in separate blogs. Today, we introduce Dr. Michael West.


Michael West earned his PhD from Yale University in 1987.

Research Interests

Dr. Michael West’s research interests include star clusters, galaxy formation and evolution, clusters of galaxies, and the large-scale structure of the universe. One of his more fascinating areas of study focuses on galaxies that are devoured by larger cousins—so-called cannibal galaxies. He has carried out research on every continent except Antarctica and served as director of the Maria Mitchell Observatory, head of science in Chile for the European Southern Observatory, head of science operations at the Gemini South Observatory, and a tenured professor of astronomy at the University of Hawaii.

Michael-WestDr. West is also active in astronomy education and outreach. He served as chief astronomy advisor for the ‘Imoloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii, a $28 million facility that weaves together astronomy and Hawaiian culture into a compelling story of human exploration.

Dr. West is a gifted writer whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, and other publications. His most recent book, A Sky Wonderful with Stars: 50 Years of Modern Astronomy on Maunakea, has been nominated for the 2017 Ka Palapala Po’okela Awards that recognize “Hawaii’s finest books and their authors.”

Fun Fact

Dr. West has both Canadian and American citizenship, and says he can name all 13 provinces and territories, in addition to all 50 states, without ever once using the word “eh.”

Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience Presentation

Date: Monday, August 21, 1 p.m.

Title: Guided by the Night: Do Animals See the Stars?

Description: Humans aren’t the only animals that look to the heavens. Some animals use the stars to

guide their migrations. Others use them to find food. And some animals can’t see them at all.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Historian

Total Eclipse of the Sun to be Commemorated on a Forever Stamp

The U.S. Postal Service will soon release a first-of-its-kind stamp that changes when you touch it. The Total Solar Eclipse Forever stamp, which commemorates the August 21 eclipse, transforms into an image of the Moon from the heat of a finger. The public is asked to share the news on social media using the hashtag #EclipseStamps.

Eclipse Stamp

Tens of millions of people in the United States hope to view this rare event, which has not been seen on the U.S. mainland since 1979. The eclipse will travel a narrow path across the entire country for the first time since 1918. The path will run west to east from Oregon to South Carolina and will include portions of 14 states.

The June 20, 1:30 p.m. MT First-Day-of-Issue ceremony will take place at the Art Museum of the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. The University is celebrating the summer solstice on June 20. Prior to the event, visitors are encouraged to arrive at 11:30 a.m. to witness a unique architectural feature where a single beam of sunlight shines on a silver dollar embedded in the floor, which occurs at noon on the summer solstice in the UW Art Museum’s Rotunda Gallery.

The back of the stamp pane provides a map of the August 21 eclipse path and times it may appear in some locations.

Thermochromic Ink

The stamp image is a photograph taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak, aka Mr. Eclipse, of Portal, AZ, that shows a total solar eclipse seen from Jalu, Libya, on March 29, 2006.

In the first U.S. stamp application of thermochromic ink, the total solar eclipse stamps will reveal a second image. Using the body heat of your thumb or fingers and rubbing the eclipse image will reveal an underlying image of the Moon (Espenak also took the photograph of the full Moon). The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.

Thermochromic inks are vulnerable to UV light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve this special effect. To help ensure longevity, the Postal Service will be offering a special envelope to hold and protect the stamp pane for a nominal fee.

A total eclipse of the Sun occurs when the Moon completely blocks the visible solar disk from view, casting a shadow on Earth. The 70-mile-wide shadow path of the eclipse, known as the “path of totality,” will traverse the country diagonally, appearing first in Oregon (mid-morning local time) and exiting some 2,500 miles east and 90 minutes later off the coast of South Carolina (mid-afternoon local time).

A total solar eclipse provides us with the only chance to see the Sun’s corona — its extended outer atmosphere — without specialized instruments. During the total phase of an eclipse the corona appears as a gossamer white halo around the black disk of the Moon, resembling the petals of a flower reaching out into space.

Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, VA, designed the stamp.

The Total Eclipse of the Sun stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp, which is always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

Press Release by the United States Postal Service

Science Channel to Broadcast Live Coverage of Lowell Eclipse Event


The Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience is an excellent opportunity to witness Lowell carrying out its dual mission of astronomical research and public education. During the eight-hour eclipse event on August 21 in Madras, Oregon, Lowell astronomers and educators will be on hand to teach, inspire, and share in the excitement of the total solar eclipse. Typical of Lowell’s long tradition of spreading scientific enlightenment, mass media will also play a vital role in reaching people across the globe.

Since the early days of educational science programming on television, the research of Lowell Observatory has been featured on various programs. In 1957, Walt Disney’s Disneyland series included the episode Mars and Beyond, which featured rocket scientist Werner von Braun discussing the problem of traveling to the red planet, as well as Lowell astronomer and Mars expert E.C. Slipher discussing his Mars research.

Two decades later, in 1980, astronomer/science popularizer Carl Sagan appeared at Lowell on Episode 5 of his Cosmos series, Blues for a Red Planet. In 1996, Bill Nye came to Lowell and filmed an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy, “Pseudoscience”, and a year later Leonard Nimoy interviewed comet hunter Carolyn Shoemaker for a show. In addition to these, numerous other science programs have been filmed at Lowell for the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and many other outlets. Discovery’s sister station, the Science Channel, will soon get in on the act as it will carry a live broadcast of Lowell’s eclipse event. This means that millions of people across the world will be able to listen to Lowell astronomers and educators and experience totality, all from the comfort of their homes as they watch on their computers and televisions.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Historian

Notable Total Solar Eclipses Throughout History

History's Solar EclipsesFor centuries, scientists have taken advantage of the special circumstances of total solar eclipses to learn about our solar system. More than 2,100 years ago, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus compared observations of such an eclipse made from different spots on Earth to calculate the distance between the Moon and Earth. His estimate of 268,000 miles is within about 11 percent of the actual distance, which is not bad considering the archaic observing techniques of the time.

In 1868, British astronomer Norman Lockyer and French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen independently discovered helium, the second most abundant element in the universe, while observing a total solar eclipse. Helium’s name derives from the circumstances of its discovery—the word helium comes from Helios, the Greek god of the Sun. Twenty-seven years would pass until scientists found helium on Earth.

The 2017 total solar eclipse will stretch across the United States, from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans. The last one to do this occurred on June 8, 1918. As for the 2017 eclipse, Lowell astronomers and other staff left Arizona in 1918 in order to observe the event. Observatory staff used a variety of instruments for this work, including two lenses–each with a diameter of five inches and focal length of 38.7 feet—borrowed from the U.S. Naval Observatory (these were two of the so-called “Transit of Venus objectives”, used to observe the transits of 1874 and 1882).

History of EclipsesMore famously, in 1919 British astronomer Arthur Eddington traveled to an island in the Pacific Ocean to photograph stars around an eclipsed Sun. Albert Einstein had predicted in his general theory of relativity that starlight would not travel in a straight line but instead bend slightly as it passed by an object, whose gravity would tug on the starlight. Eddington saw a perfect opportunity to test this prediction by observing and measuring starlight as it passed by the darkened Sun during a total eclipse. Eddington’s findings seemed to support Einstein’s prediction (later astronomers have debated the accuracy of Eddington’s measurements) and made Einstein an instant global celebrity.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Public Information Officer and Historian

The Path of the 2017 Solar Eclipse

The path of totality for the 2017 eclipse reaches a maximum width of 71 miles and stretches in a southeasterly route from the Pacific northwest to the middle of the Atlantic coastal plain, passing over 14 states including Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina.


Lowell Observatory astronomers, educators, volunteers, and support staff will host the 2017 Lowell Observatory Solar Experience in Madras, Oregon, which is right in the middle of the path of totality. Lowell chose Madras largely based on past weather patterns; Madras has one of the highest probabilities of good weather on August 21 of any site along the path of totality.

Path of Totality 2017

On average, total solar eclipses occur once every 18 months. But the path from which such events are visible is narrow and varies with each eclipse, so total solar eclipses cross the same geographical area on Earth only about once every 375 years. Arizona is in the middle of a 399-year wait; it hasn’t witnessed a total solar eclipse since Thomas Jefferson was president back in 1806 and will have to wait until 2205 to see the next one (for the 2017 event, the Sun will only be partially eclipsed as seen from Arizona).

The last total solar eclipse to cross into United States territory was in 1991, when a July 11 event was visible from Hawaii. The last one seen from the continental United States occurred on February 26, 1979 but the last one to stretch across the entire country—like the 2017 version—happened on June 8, 1918. The next one visible from the United States will be in 2024, when the path of totality will stretch in a northeasterly direction from Texas through Maine. Not until 2045 will another total solar eclipse cross the continent from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans.

 By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Public Information Officer and Historian

What is a Total Solar Eclipse?

We can see total solar eclipses thanks to a couple of phenomena: orbital motions of Earth and the Moon, and a cosmic coincidence that renders the Sun and Moon to appear similar in size.

Solar Eclipse

Solar eclipses can only happen during the new phase of the Moon, when the Moon lines up between Earth and the Sun. If the three bodies are not quite aligned correctly, then the Moon may block part of the Sun in what is called a partial solar eclipse; if the three are perfectly aligned, then the Moon can completely cover the Sun, creating a total solar eclipse.

However, because the distance between the Moon and Earth varies, the Moon will sometimes appear a little larger or smaller than usual. Occasionally, even when the three bodies are perfectly aligned, the smaller-than- usual Moon won’t completely block the Sun, leaving a ring, or annulus, of the Sun showing. This is known as an annular eclipse.

Solar Eclipse

But there is more to the story and in order to understand it, a look at one of space’s curiosities is necessary. The Sun has a diameter about 400 times greater than that of the Moon, but it also happens to be 400 times further from Earth than the Moon. This means that the two bodies, as seen from Earth, appear to be about the same size. If the Moon was farther away from Earth, then the Sun would appear larger and thus could never be covered by the Moon. In that case, total solar eclipses wouldn’t be visible from Earth; the best we could hope for would be annular ones. This will eventually become the case; with the Moon moving away from Earth at a rate of 1.5 inches per year (about the same rate that our fingernails grow), in several hundred million years it will be too small to completely block the Sun.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Public Information Officer and Historian

Why The Great American Eclipse of 2017 Will Be So Great

Professional and amateur astronomers alike are gearing up for what may become the most viewed sky event in history.

On August 21, 2017, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun during the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States in 38 years. The last solar eclipse occurred February 26, 1979, but was only visible from five states in the Northwest.

The Great American Eclipse will hit land in Oregon and travel across the country to South Carolina where it will then only be visible from the Atlantic Ocean – making the U.S. the only country that will be lucky enough to experience this historic event.


The entire country will see a partial eclipse, but only people in the “Path of Totality” will experience a total eclipse, view the iconic two diamond rings, and revel at the 360 º corona.

Because the moon’s shadow is round, those viewers nearest the center line of the Path of Totality will experience a longer eclipse. Madras, Oregon is a prime location not only for being on the center line, but also because, based on past weather patterns, it has a high probability of clear skies on August 21.

Great American Eclipse

The solar totality will last a brief, but amazing 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The next total solar eclipse to fall across the United States won’t occur until April 8, 2024.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Public Information Officer and Historian