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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

College will hold events, provide glasses for total solar eclipse on April 8

For the first time since 1932, Middlebury will be in the path of totality for a solar eclipse. Starting at 2:14 p.m. on Monday April 8, the moon’s shadow will slowly move until it fully covers the sun, which will occur at 3:27 p.m.

The next time Vermont will have a total solar eclipse is in 2079, and Middlebury will not be in the path of totality, making this event unique for the college.

The college published a web page featuring a schedule of all the various on-campus events that will take place surrounding the eclipse — open to staff, faculty and students — as well as general eclipse information and safety precautions.

A lecture series of professors in the Physics and Anthropology departments has run during the week of April 1, the week leading up to the eclipse on April 8. The Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) is also hosting events for students.

Observatory Specialist Dr. Catherine Miller assisted with purchasing glasses that will allow people to safely view the eclipse without damaging their eyes. Half of the glasses were paid for by an anonymous donor, for which Miller expressed appreciation.

Miller plans to have plenty of opportunities for the community to get a pair of glasses before eclipse day. There will also be glasses distributed day-of at the viewing event on Battell Beach. The times and locations for glasses distribution are still being finalized, but will be made available on the eclipse web page.

“Viewing the Solar Eclipse requires specialized glasses, which are made to a particular international standard of transmittance, so just making sure that they block the appropriate amounts of both visible and UV light,” Miller said.

She also recommends to never look directly into the sun or use a phone to take a picture of the eclipse. Remembering to look down at the ground before putting on and removing the glasses is another way to ensure eye safety during the event.

Miller also helped to organize the lecture series. The lectures will explore the historical, social and cultural aspects of eclipses. Miller has been working alongside Associate Director of Community Relations Amy Carlin since November to organize the series along with a stargazing event at the Mittleman Observatory on April 5.  

Frank Winkler Professor of Astrophysics Eilat Glikman commended Miller’s dedication to organizing these events and shared her excitement to participate in the lecture series. Glikman hosted a lecture on April 3 titled “The Physics and Societal Impact of Solar Eclipses,” where she discussed the importance of eclipses, and more generally, astronomy.

“Astronomy, I think more than so many sciences, really does tie into our human experience in a way that is highly impractical… there’s no technology… it’s just wonder, it's just delight. It just fulfills our purpose. It's like listening to a poem that nature writes,” Glikman said.

MCAB is hosting bracelet, cookie and lantern making, and a movie night and post-eclipse trivia where students can win declining balance. MCAB hopes that these different events will help students learn about and engage in conversations about the eclipse, as well as bring the community together. 

“These school events will be a great opportunity for people to meet new people and gather with friends and do something creative, outside of the academic hustle,” said MCAB social executive board member Kanon Asari ʼ27. 

Asari and her fellow committee members worked with Carlin to organize their events. The MCAB general board assisted with brainstorming some event concepts, and once finalized all of the necessary materials were ordered. The committee aimed to connect all the details of event design back to the eclipse. 

Celestial beads will be available for bracelet making, cookies will be designed to look like suns and moons, and the movie they are showing is “Guardians of the Galaxy.” 

On the actual eclipse day, there will be 60 seconds of totality over Battell Beach. After that the moon will slowly uncover the sun, eventually disappearing around 4:37 p.m. An email sent out to the college on March 26 stated that release time from 2–4:30 p.m. has been approved, meaning that college staff can ask their managers to participate in the viewing. 

While the college has not formally asked professors to cancel classes, they recommended faculty offer flexibility for students to view the eclipse. Many professors have taken the initiative to cancel their classes on April 8. 

Both Glikman and Miller agreed with the sentiment, sharing that if they had classes during eclipse time, they would cancel them.

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“Look, we are a liberal arts campus,” Glikman said. “I can't think of a more interdisciplinary and sort of liberal phenomenon, that we can all come together and really be part of nature. And for a campus that is so committed to environmental studies, I feel like again, it's right there. It's an experience.”

Asari said that her class, “Society and The Individual,” taught by Associate Professor of Sociology Jamie McCallum was canceled and that McCallum even mentioned possibly inviting his students to his house for a class-wide viewing party. 

Isabel Thomas ʼ26.5 is in “Economic Statistics,” taught by Erick Gong, associate professor of economics, who also decided to cancel class for the eclipse. 

“He’s canceling class on April 8 and told us to get out and enjoy the once in a lifetime experience of viewing the eclipse, and thought that was more educational than econ stats would be that day,” Thomas said.

As eclipse day approaches, it is important to review safety precautions.

“While the risk may be minimized during the moment of totality, that moment is subjective and permanent damage can occur just before or after totality. Peeking for a few seconds, wearing sunglasses, or squinting will not protect your eyes,” the college’s webpage advises.

Those who have planned the events around the eclipse encourage students to attend events and — most importantly — view the eclipse on April 8. 

“I think it's just really exciting that we get together as a community and experience it together,” Miller said. “We don’t know how we’re going to feel when it happens, but I’ve heard that people might feel awe, some people go quiet, some people start crying, some people start screaming. It’s going to be really cool.”