SIU students, faculty study total solar eclipse in Australia ahead of Heartland Eclipse 2024

A group of SIU physics students and staff got an early preview of the upcoming solar eclipse, as well as the trip of a lifetime
Published: Apr. 27, 2023 at 4:03 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 5:23 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - The countdown to Heartland Eclipse 2024 is underway.

During that event, much of the area will see the moon completely block the view of the sun.

A group of Southern Illinois University physics students and staff got an early preview and the trip of a lifetime. They traveled to Australia to observe and research a recent total solar eclipse.

“It was, honestly, pretty beautiful to see,” said Lance Griswold, a junior in the school of physics at SIU.

Griswold was one of fewer than 20 students and faculty that traveled down under. He said it was a memory of a lifetime.

“Instead of just seeing the sun slowly get dimmer and get brighter again, I was actually able to see the shapes, the crescents, every part of totality and then some,” he said.

The group practiced using their cameras to get the best shots, hoping to use the settings to get better pictures of the 2024 eclipse in southern Illinois.

Bob Baer is a specialist in the School of Physics and Applied Physics. He said due to the rarity of eclipses, they had to travel to across the world.

“The research that we did there is actually NASA-funded research. So it’s for a citizens science project called the dynamic eclipse broadcast initiative that’s coming up to observe the 2023-2024 solar eclipse. So that’s the main reason why we were there,” Baer said.

He said it’s hard to replicate a science experiment like this one.

“We don’t have much time to practice, so this time around we had that one minute basically to practice and take our images. So that’s the main thing we were doing is determining those exposure lengths,” he added.

Griswold said this practice will allow them to collect data even easier for next year’s eclipse.

“We had a lot of time to troubleshoot different effects; and anything that went poorly during the eclipse we now know about and can actively fix and make sure it goes well next time. Next time being April of next year when we have a 4-minute eclipse,” he explained.

The total solar eclipse here in the Heartland will be April 8.