Professor Jay Pasachoff to Deliver Williams Sigma Xi Lectures April 13-14

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., April 3, 2017—Jay Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy and director of the Hopkins Observatory at Williams, will deliver the spring 2017 Sigma Xi lectures on Thursday and Friday, April 13 and 14, at Williams College. Both lectures will begin at 4:15 p.m. and take place in the Wege Auditorium in the Thompson Science Center. The lectures are free and open to the public.

On Thursday, April 13, Pasachoff will deliver “Our Sun: From the Ground and From Space,” a lecture that will be a general orientation to studies of the sun, including observations of solar phenomena such as sunspots, the solar-activity cycle, and the sun’s outer layers. In this highly illustrated lecture, Pasachoff will discuss observations from ground-based observatories and from solar spacecraft, including the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, and the Solar Ultraviolet Imager recently launched on GOES-16, an American weather satellite.

The lecture on Friday, April 14, will focus on the Great American Solar Eclipse, set to take place on Aug. 21. This lecture will concentrate on what has been learned from solar eclipse expeditions to observe the solar corona, often including Williams College undergraduates. In this talk, Pasachoff will concentrate on the most recent expeditions, including total eclipses in 2012 from Australia; 2013 from Gabon; 2015 from Svalbard; and 2016 from Indonesia; and annular eclipses most recently from Réunion in the Indian Ocean in 2016 and Patagonia, Argentina, in February 2017. He will discuss plans and projects for this summer’s total solar eclipse, with the path of totality ranging from Oregon to South Carolina, and what will or won’t be seen from outside totality with a partial eclipse of 71 percent (coverage of the sun’s diameter by the moon) in Williamstown, meaning that the sky will be approximately 300,000 times brighter than it will be in the path of totality. He will describe plans for the eight undergraduates who will participate, aided by the Freeman Foote Field Trip Fund, in addition to Pasachoff’s grants from the National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society. Additional Williams faculty and alumni will also participate in his expedition to Salem, Ore. He will describe outreach efforts for reaching students and the public for the 2017 Great American Eclipse, including his participation in a PBS NOVA special.

Since his first-year undergraduate seminar at Harvard, Pasachoff has been observing solar eclipses. He is deeply involved in research and outreach about the forthcoming total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, with the first path of totality crossing the continental United States from coast to coast in 99 years.  It will be his 66th solar eclipse.

President of Williams College’s Sigma Xi chapter, Pasachoff has been a national Sigma Xi lecturer. He is chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Solar Eclipses and is on the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse 2017 Task Force. He received the 2017 Richtmyer Memorial Lecture Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers “for outstanding contributions to physics and effectively communicating those contributions to physics educators.” He had earlier received the American Astronomical Society’s Education Prize. His research at the 2017 total solar eclipse is being supported by grants from the National Science Foundation’s Solar Terrestrial Program of the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Division and by the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society.


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