Total Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017

Eclipse educational events planned in I.F.

Astronomer Jeffrey Bennett has seen total solar eclipses from Australia, France, Thailand and a boat in the Mediterranean Sea, but come Aug. 21 he’ll be in Idaho Falls.

During the total solar eclipse, eastern Idaho will offer lengthy totality — when the moon fully eclipses the sun — and a sky projected to be cloudless.

Bennett, who has written a handful of math- and science-related books for children and adults, has a series of events planned that weekend.

The celestial event is a perfect time to learn, he said.

“Oftentimes kids learn something in school or adults see something on TV; rarely is there a time when they get the same experience,” said Bennett, who lives in Boulder, Colo. “This is an event that works for everybody. We can leverage off that so all different audiences can take away something.”

Familiar with the area after speaking at Idaho State University and Brigham Young University-Idaho, Bennett realized last year that eastern Idaho will be in the eclipse’s path of totality.

He contacted former Idaho Falls Greater Chamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Holt to ask if she’d be interested in facilitating eclipse events in Idaho Falls.

“She said yes; so we went from there,”Bennett said. “It’s such a unique event; we knew we could mix up a variety of topics.”

Bennett will participate in a variety of eclipse education events over the course of four days beginning Aug. 18.

Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 21 for a free eclipse-viewing event at Melaleuca Field. Space is first-come, first-served, as are 5,000 free pairs of eclipse glasses. There will be a handful of tables and activities at the stadium, which Bennett said will accommodate 10,000 to 12,000 people.

“Max Goes to the Moon,” a short movie based off one of Bennett’s children’s books, will play on the screen at Melaleuca Field at 9 a.m., and NASA astronaut Alvin Drew will speak at 9:35 a.m. Drew has been on two spaceflights.

There will be presentations and discussions during the partial eclipse, from 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A telescopic view of the partial eclipse will be projected onto the screen providing more visual detail of the sun.

“At that point you put on your glasses and will see the moon starting to take that little bite out of the sun,” Bennett said.

Totality at Melaleuca is projected to last 1:50, then the final partial eclipse phase will occur, when attendees can ask questions.

Though totality is expected to last about 30 seconds longer in Rigby than in Idaho Falls, Bennett said Melaleuca Field will be a worthwhile place to view the eclipse.

“It’s really a lot more fun to watch the eclipse with a big group. You can stand in a parking lot by yourself somewhere, but it’s more fun to have the event going on where everyone can share in the atmosphere,” he said.

The weekend preceding the eclipse will feature a handful of free events for children and the general public. A full schedule is at bigkidscience.com/idaho-falls-eclipse.

Bennett and several other scientists will present at Eagle Rock Middle School on Aug. 18 through Aug. 20. The lectures are aimed at adults and children from the fifth grade onward.

Bennett also will read a few of his children’s books at the Museum of Idaho on Saturday and Sunday. There will be a meet-and-greet with Drew after the final reading Sunday.


Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.


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Source: Solar Eclipse 2017

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