Next week, we are in for a treat as a rare solar eclipse will be visible to us on the morning of Monday, August 21 around 10:15 – 10:30 a.m. The last time Americans had the opportunity to see a solar eclipse was in 1979, so for many of us, this is a first. To help you get the most out of your eclipse viewing, the new physics professor at Saint Martin’s University, Dr. Andrea Kunder, has a few tips as well as some interesting facts about eclipses you most likely don’t know.

Saint Martin's University Andrea Kunder
Andrea in the city of Eze, May 2017 while giving a talk at the IAU Symposium in Nice, France. Photo credit: Andrea Kunder

It was Kunder’s astronomy professor at Willamette University – where she received her undergraduate degree – that sparked her interest in the field. To say Kunder has experience in astronomy and astrophysics is almost an understatement. After receiving her Ph.D. from Dartmouth College, Kunder was a post-doctorate fellow for four years in La Serena, Chile, where the U.S. National Observatory houses its large telescopes. Next, she spent another four years as a post-doc fellow at a research institute in Germany. During those eight years she was researching the formation of the Milky Way galaxy.

“Just like archeologists use fossils to study the formation of the Earth, I was using the old stars in the Milky Way galaxy to try to understand how the galaxy formed,” Kunder explains. “The universe is so unexplored – it’s the one place you can always discover something. It’s very exciting.”

After her travels, Kunder came back home to the Thurston County area to be near her family. Appropriately, she will start her new position at Saint Martin’s University on August 21. She is excited to be teaching after all her years of research. “I love that teaching gives me a chance to interact with people,” says Kunder. Something you don’t often get when doing individual research.

Saint Martin's University Andrea Kunder
Andrea and her whole family enjoyed exploring Chilie’s volcanoes. Here, she and her daughter are visiting the Osorno Volcano. Photo credit: Andrea Kunder

“And I’d like to give back to the community through the dissemination of information to students,” she adds. “It makes me feel good about what I am doing and proves to me it has value to society. The people who have impacted my life the most are my teachers and I think what a treat it would be to hopefully be able to do the same for someone else.”

When she is not star-gazing, Kunder enjoys spending time with her family, which includes her husband and three children, ages five, three, and one. The entire family likes to go camping and hiking.

2017 Solar Eclipse Viewing Tips

Kunder has some professional tips and tricks for anyone who wants to view the solar eclipse.

If you stay at home or work, you will only see a partial eclipse. This link shows what those in Lacey and the surrounding area will see. To view a full eclipse, Kunder recommends heading down to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The first place to experience totality in the continental U.S. will be Government Point, Oregon, at 10:15:56.5 a.m. The darkness of the total eclipse will last 1 minute, 58.5 seconds.

Saint Martin's University Andrea Kunder
A spectator trying to view a partial eclipse in La Serena, Chile using an X-ray. Photo credit: Andrea Kunder

Safe eclipse viewing can only happen with the right type of glasses. Amazon just had a recall on several of theirs, so be sure to check yours before you use them to look at the sun. The only glasses that are safe to use are the ones with ISO 12312-2, or either a welding mask or glasses with number 14 welding glass.

Believe it or not, Kunder saw people looking through X-ray film prints while watching a partial solar eclipse in Chile. It is NOT recommended to look at the sun through an X-ray film print. “It was the first time I saw a partial eclipse,” she says. “We saw people on the beach trying to view the eclipse through X-rays. But it’s not a good idea, it won’t protect your eyes from the sun.”

“In June the sun is at its highest,” Kunder says, “So August is a pretty good time for a solar eclipse because the sun will be pretty high, probably 60 or 70 degrees above the horizon.” If you are staying in our area, Kunder says you can tell now if you will be able to see the eclipse by looking out your window or in your backyard at around 10:00 a.m. If you can see the sun, you will be able to see the eclipse on August 21.

Saint Martin's University Andrea Kunder
Andrea took this photo of the partial eclipse in Chili. It was taken by placing the camera behind a welding mask. Photo credit: Andrea Kunder

If you are planning on taking pictures, Kunder says be sure you keep your glasses on when you look through the lens. She has taken pictures of partial eclipses and says the hardest part is the focus. “Because of the brightness of the sun, if you have auto-focus it can be tricky to get the photos to turn out right,” Kunder says. “So you may have to play with the focus a bit ahead of time.”

2017 Solar Eclipse Fun Facts

During her studies, Kunder has learned a lot about solar eclipses. Here are some of her favorite facts:

  • During a total solar eclipse, the sun, the moon and the Earth are perfectly aligned.
  • Only during a total solar eclipse can you see the stars during daytime, as well as strange colors in the sky and broken beads along the dwindling edge of the sun, which are caused by the jagged mountains on the moon.
  • You will also be able to see Venus and Jupiter along the plane of the solar system.
  • Babylonians and the ancient Chinese were able to predict solar eclipses as early as 2500 BCE, although where exactly a total eclipse was visible was not always certain.
  • No photo or video can compare to seeing a total solar eclipse yourself. A camera lens cannot capture the extraordinarily intricate detail visible to the human eye.
  • Looking at the sun will damage your eyes, even when the sun is partially blocked by the moon, like during an eclipse.
  • There is no huge city in the path of totality. The largest city is Nashville, Tennessee, and it has a population of 600,000.

Kunder says whether you stay at home or travel, the big thing is “don’t miss it.” Solar eclipses don’t happen very often and they are not always visible here. Even if you just look at it from your office window, it’s something you will remember forever.

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