Let's first meet our participants, just a quick one-time around the room - who you are and what you do!
Hi, how ya doin', Dan?
No, you're doing a great job, Dan - I think it's a great service you're doing for the general public for this.
Well, with NASA my primary function really was working with a group of other scientists that were developing infrared spectrometers for attaching to telescopes out in AZ and in HI, and we were looking at the infrared spectra of primarily the planets in the solar system. And studying the molecular constituents, trying to derive some of the physics going on, and my job was involved with developing the software for analyzing that data, and extracting the physics of what's going on in those planetary atmospheres. So that was my bread and butter at NASA for many years.
The web site is eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov
Besides eclipse chasing - I tried to get to as many eclipses as I could; not as many as Glenn has gotten to, Glenn Schneider - but when I was in college, I got interested in looking ahead at future eclipses, and there weren't very many books around. I managed to get my hands on Jean Meeus' Canon of Eclipses, but I also got interested in how to predict eclipses. And I also at the same time was taking classes in computer programming in college, and the two sort of blended together, and before long I was writing programs on calculating eclipses and using mapping software to start generating maps in the 1970s. And over the years they got more and more sophisticated; I started publishing articles on upcoming eclipses, and in the 70s and 80s people had been relying on the US Naval Observatory's eclipse circulars on each upcoming eclipse. And in the early 1990s, they had severe budget cutbacks with the Naval Observatory, and they had to terminate their eclipse series. And at that time I was asked, sort of unofficially, if I might be interested in providing a similar type of service for the astronomical community. And at the time, I was not doing eclipses per se for NASA - I was doing them sort of on my own time. But I spoke to my supervisor, and got the OK to (on the side) start generating a publication simliar to what the Naval Observatory had published. So for a number of years, while I was still at NASA, those became a sort of unofficial replacement for the Naval Observatory bulletins. And I think I published about 10 or 12 of them, with Jay Anderson.
Thanks, Fred! We'll certainly have a lot more to ask you about later.
Let's go on now, to visit with Dr. Glenn Schneider.
Hey Dan! How are you?
I'm an astronomer at the University of Arizona.
Well, actually, it doesn't - I will fully admit that solar eclipses are more of a hobby and fascination for me - I'm not a professional solar astronomer, it's not my field. The work that I do is actually in the formation and evolution of exo-planetary systems. In particular, the formation processes in the environments around stars, how planets form from the dusty environments and the interactions between dust disks and planets. And so, I've gotten into developing coronagraphic imaging techniques and instrumentation that are used in space, primarily. I was for ten years the project instrument scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope's near-infrared camera, multi-object spectrograph, and in particular the science program. What I was doing then and continue to do now with Hubble is using their coronagraphic instrument, right now primarily with the space telescope imaging spectrograph.
And, since about 2007, I've been leading a program to fly an explorer-class spacecraft designed with a high-performance coronagraph for studying circumstellar disks in a space environment. I'm the principal investigator on the project, and right now we're funded by NASA for doing technology development.
For me personally, I had already made that sort of life decision before I saw my first total eclipse - which was in 1970, in Greenville NC. It was more kind of an intellectual phenomenon; I had not seen one. I had read everything about it that I possibly could have, and had talked to people, and... You just have absoutely no concept until you actually, you experience a total - you don't see a total eclipse, you experience one.
Well, I have to say no because I'd already made that decision long before that. In fact, I got my first telescope when I was 5 years old. You know, one of these little tiny department-store-type things. But by the time I was literally 5, 6 years old I knew that's what I wanted to do - I wanted to be an astronomer.
That is amazing! And I know we'll have a lot to talk about in just a bit. Thanks, Glenn!
Ok, who's next? How about Jay Anderson, the master of weather forecasting?
I'm good, how are you, Dan?
Thank you very much-
I have a degree in Physics and Astronomy, and when I got out of university I went on a course, and then became a meteorologist for the Canadian government. And that's pretty much what I did for 36 years.
I was actually working as a meteorologist in Winnipeg, and I took it upon myself, after seeing a little blurb about the weather in Sky & Telescope [ed: in 1979], to send them down a little booklet that we put together, that described the average conditions around the southern parts of Canada where the eclipse was. And they published a letter to the editor on that. Subsequently we got many hundreds of requests for this little booklet.
The next eclipse, a friend of mine in the planetarium here in Winnipeg asked me if I would do a similar weather study for him, because he was planning to go see it. So I wrote him up, I don't know, six pages of weather, and put some maps in it, things like that. Gave it to him, and he said "Well, I'm gonna send it off to Edmonton", and that was it. And about a year later, I got a phone call from somebody, he says I'm so-and-so and I'm in New York City and I got a copy of your weather study here. And he said, "Can I send it over to the US Naval Observatory?" Uh, sure - fine! And, about two days later I got a phone call from Allen Fiala there, and he says, "We got a copy of your weather study, and we'd like to include it in the circulars of the USNO". Well, I said "Sure, yeah, go ahead!," and he says "The only problem is, it's been Xeroxed so many times, we can't read it!" So I dug it out, and I sent him down a new copy of it, and they published it for years until they finally ran out of budget money, and Fred took it over. And just in the process of saying, well, if the USNO is gone, I'll do it myself, and about that time Fred wrote me and said "How about if you join me and we do it?" So, we moved over to NASA then, and kept it up until a few years ago.
And we are all VERY glad you did! Lots to say about weather in a bit...
Let's move on now, to Dr. Ralph Chou.
Hello there! How are you doing?
I'm a professor of optometry, actually professor emeritus now. [I] took a degree in astronomy, graduated just in time for NASA to stop hiring and all sorts of other things to happen, so I took refuge in optometry, which turned out to be a much more lucrative affair. Took [a] graduate degree in the discipline, and ended up being on the faculty of the University of Waterloo School of Optometry until I retired about two years ago.
Not so much with the IAU, but certainly with the International Organization for Standardization - what we call ISO. They're the ones who really are leading the charge on standards for the production of these types of devices [ed: safe solar viewing glasses]. The IAU has been very supportive of the whole idea of eclipse education, and I was - and still am - part of the special committee that they put together under Jay Pasaschoff to provide information about how to see a solar eclipse safely.
OK - thanks Dr. Chou! We'll have lots to say about that very important topic later!
Let's see now, how about visiting with one of our eminent amateurs - Joel Moskowitz!
1991. Yeah, well, what happened was after I saw my first one in '91, I said I'm going to every one. And I've seen every one since, yeah since '91. I plan on seeing every single one until I'm either not in this world any more or physically unable to get to them.
And then after seeing that eclipse, I kicked myself that I hadn't done it much earlier.
Well, it's really hard to pin down and say. It's like one of those things where you tell someone, "You'll know it when you see it!" And when I saw the first one, I was just so overwhelmed with the entire experience, you know. Everything, all the phenomena going on. I got hooked!
You, and me, and a lot of other people as well! Thanks, Joel!
Let's now talk to Xavier Jubier, from France!
No, not by profession, of course not - no, no.
I started to work on it in '04, before Google Maps, you know, were released - because I had connections to Google, and I had access to a beta version. And I was looking for a way to be able to build maps without having to do it manually - you know, every time you're taking a paper map and drawing by hand the path - tedious, I mean, it was taking too much time, you know? I [was looking for a way] to do it, and so when I became aware of Google Maps,
I said oh wow, this - I mean, if there is an API that I can use, then it could be the best tool to do it. It's going to be available free, so I said, OK, perfect tool, let's go ahead - and so I started to first do it by hand, you know - just plotting the path, and then trying to assemble the whole pieces together.
And so, I did manage to have one working, then of course Google released the tool, so then I released those eclipse maps, all done by hand. And then I said, OK, the problem is, for example, the delta T value changes. I need to be able to adjust, and not having every time to re-compute everything by hand, and so I need a tool to automatize everything. So this is when I started to work on the current tool that is being used. And I completed most of the work in '07. So it took some time.
Thanks, Xavier - we'll have a lot more to look at later on for those results!
All right - let's move now over to some heavy science - Dr. Shadia Habbal!
Hello, Dan. I'm fine, thank you - and yourself?
Yes, I'm a professor at the University of Hawai'i. I'm an astronomer, yes, by title, but from background I got a Ph.D in Physics. But I got into solar physics by getting into research in solar physics. But I wasn't trained as a solar physicist. I learned a lot more than just your Ph.D, that you learn afterward.
My research has been the solar corona, the solar wind. I was originally interested in the solar wind, and where it originated from. The main theories were that the majority of the solar winds originate from the polar regions of the Sun, and from what we call coronal holes - which are, if you look at the solar surface in certain spectral lines, they appear dimmer than the rest of the Sun, because the magnetic field lines start from the Sun and then stretch out to, basically the whole heliosphere. So the idea was that most of the open field lines come from the polar regions. And so, I did a lot of work before starting eclipses, to show that actually it was more like the sources of the solar winds were almost everywhere on the solar surface, but the fastest winds came from the polar region.
Well, I think it was one of the most fortunate coincidences of collaboration in my scientific life. He's a brilliant mathematician, and just an incredible photographer - and it's through his skills in both that he managed to bring out all the fine details of the corona that are comparable to what the eye can see - that the camera, if you just look at an image, you don't see them. So you really have to work on the information that's imbedded in the images, to get the fine detail. His very profound understanding of human vision, of photography - what's possible - and the fact that he has the mathematical skills to develop those techniques, is kind of unique. We've published a lot together, and we continue to work together - so it's been a wonderful experience. We complement each other, and we know exactly what we need to do - we communicate extremely well, and sometimes you know, if one starts a thought, the other picks it up and continues.
That is amazing - truly great science is definitely going to happen with that kind of collaboration!
And it also sounds like a great segue, for us to move over and talk to Dr. Miloslav Druckmüller, then!
Hello Dan, do you hear me?
I'm a professor at the Brno University of Technology, in [the] Czech Republic. And I'm a mathematician, so I work in the Institute of Mathematics. I'm a professor of Mathematics - Applied Mathematics. My main subjects of interest are analysis in the complex domain and numerical methods of image processing. So let's say that eclipse photography is something which is of course my hobby, but it is very, very near to my profession.
In the situation in which I am now, for me 50% of my work [at] the University is somehow connected with the cooperation of the University of Hawai'i and with Shadia Habbal. And we are writing something like five scientific articles per year. And the meeting with Shadia was for me [a] very very important thing, because this meeting changed my hobby to science definitely!
So, for example, we will be working on some project here in Brno, so our cooperation is very very widened. So from the very beginning, the main problem was that I find, for example, in the solar corona, completely new structures - we are calling these structures let's say something like smoke rings, because they look like smoke rings(!) - and it took me several years to understand what I have really discovered. And if it were not for Shadia, definitely [I] was not able to completely understand the science which is behind it. But nowadays the cooperation is very wide, and Shadia [taught] me a little bit of solar physics, and I [taught] Shadia a little bit of mathematics - so we understand the problem, and I think that even in the future, we have a lot of work which must be done during the eclipses - especially with these narrow-band filters and observing these forbidden lines of Iron ions. Definitely there [are] a lot of interesting things which can be done during the eclipses.
I cannot wait to hear more about that! Thank you, Dr. Druckmüller!
Meanwhile, let's move back over to the amateur corner, and talk to Jim Rosenstock!
Words are truly inadequate. If you haven't experienced a total solar eclipse, it's really, really tough to describe one - Except, it's an experience unlike any other, and that you will never forget.
We knew scientifically, intellectually, what was going to happen - And had no idea what it was really gonna be like observationally, emotionally, psychically. It's just, literally, it's not just that the sun gets blacked out - the entire universe changes, and it's - it's so completely unworldly that there's no way to prepare for it, until you've seen it really. You can read as much as you want, you can watch as many videos as you want - that only scratches the surface.
Sounds like we've got a LOT more to talk about later! - Thanks, Jim!
Let's now move over to some of our professional Astronomical journalists!
First, we'll visit with Kelly Beatty of Sky & Telescope magazine!
I'm fine, how are you?
I sure think so! I've been working for Sky & Telescope, come this July , I will have been on the staff, writing for Sky & Telescope for forty - that's four-zero - years. I joined the staff in 1974, I had gotten a degree in Geology, actually, from CalTech.
I worked for Bruce Murray, planetary scientist who had been really involved in a lot of the early NASA missions to Mercury and Mars - and he was a great mentor. And Bruce had gone to, he would frequently go up to the JPL, and give updates on spacecraft in press conferences, and I would be in the wings, just kind of watching this all go on, and I realized that the questions that the reporters were asking were really stupid questions - just naïve and uninformed, and I said "Hell, I can do that"! And so that kind of put in my mind this notion of being a science writer, which I've been ever since I joined the staff in '74 - one year after graduating. I've been writing mostly about planetary science and space exploration during all that time.
Until 2008 I was full time on the editorial staff. And now, I am not on the staff - I am a senior contributing editor, I write half time for them on a contract basis. I'm still working with the editors day to day. As I have in the past, I write a lot about planetary science and space exploration, and eclipses - we just had an astronomy day event yesterday that drew 2,000 people to my school, I write about that. And so, I'm a contributor to Sky & Telescope now - not technically on the editorial staff.
Sky & Telescope's approach has always been to deliver a tour that's accurate, and in [the] best position - you know, a lot of tour groups do this too. I think that in the 20-odd years that I've been doing this, a number of tour groups have emerged that are quite good about conducting eclipse tours. They all do a good job, we all run into each other, it's a friendly fraternity.
And we help each other out, because you know there are a lot of people out there who want to see these eclipses, and I guarantee you - after the 2017 eclipse...
You know, think about this: up until this point, there are maybe, what? A few thousand people who have gone on tours to see eclipses. And after 2017, when millions of Americans will see totality for the first time, and finally realize what it is that it's all about, that makes this such a special kind of event - I suspect that the eclipse tour business is really going to be very brisk after that.
That's great, Kelly - thanks a lot!
Now, let's move to Kelly's counterpart at Astronomy Magazine, Michael Bakich!
Hi Dan, Michael Bakich!
There's another magazine? Wait a minute…!
I am senior editor at Astronomy Magazine. I also serve as the magazine's photo editor, so all these cool pictures of galaxies and comets - and eclipses - come to me first.
I've probably written more about this eclipse than anyone else on Earth! With the website, with magazine articles, with the book - I, I have the only 2017 eclipse-related podcast on iTunes,… Just yesterday, I posted episode #103 podcast on the same event!
A podcast, huh? That's fantastic, Michael - thanks very much for that service you're providing!
OK, let's now talk to Michael Zeiler.
Well, I've been working in the GIS field for about three decades now. It’s been my life's work. GIS stands for Geographic Information Systems, and I began when the industry was just starting off. I've done a variety of jobs throughout those three decades - I've been a programmer, I've been a cartographer, and I've taken that experience, and now I write books about geographic information processing.
[ed: this interview was captured in 2014]
Now, for 2017, I'm actually developing a brand new web site: I've reserved the URL of GreatAmericanEclipse.com. This website is going to be addressed toward the general public. It's going to have some general content about where to see the 2017 eclipse. I'm working on a brand new set of 2017 maps that I'm really excited about, because I think they're gonna be the best maps yet. And - more general content, for example, in my collection, besides historic maps, I also have many old books and old newspapers, and old magazines, with stories about previous eclipses in the US. So, I'm going to be sharing a lot of content from my collection on this website, telling about the history of American eclipses over the last 250 years or so.
It's all about inspiring a new generation of eclipse observers.
You're doing a service to the American public by doing this.
Thanks very much, Michael! You certainly are as well!
We haven't spoken to Jay Pasachoff yet -
Yes hi, how are you?
Over 100 articles in refereed journals, and over 300 other meeting reports or other papers in a wide variety of venues.
Yes. During eclipses, we've been studying the solar corona, and the prominences and the[ir] motions. I've been very glad that we've been able to have, at least one and often two, scientific articles about the results of the eclipse research in the main scientific journals, especially the Astrophysical Journal and the Journal of Solar Physics. I'm working now with my students and some colleagues on papers about the 2012 and 2013 eclipses, and we hope to have an Astrophysical Journal paper about the imaging in each of those, and a Solar Physics paper about the spectra and what it tells us about the coronal temperature for each of those also.
When it came time for me to do my Ph.D. thesis, which was [ed: with his undergrad work] also at Harvard, I was invited by Professor Robert Norris of the Sacramento Peak Observatory - a solar observatory - and I wound up doing my Ph.D. thesis on the solar chromosphere. And then, a few years later, when I got my degree, I spent a year as a post-doctoral fellow, working with Professor Menzel at Harvard, on studying the solar corona at the 1970 total solar eclipse. So I have had a major field of research about the Sun - the chromosphere and corona especially - for all this time. Since I know how to look at the Sun, from the ground and from space, when the transits of Venus came around I brought Glenn Schneider in to work with me on some modeling of that. And then also, I have been doing some experiments observing the solar corona with very high frequency as a test of methods of heating of the corona to millions of degrees, and that has led some spin-offs into studying the atmospheres of things in the outer solar system - especially Pluto, but some of the other objects as well - because the instrumentation that we used for the solar work was similar to instrumentation that a friend and colleague of mine was using for outer solar system studies. So, my work has been broadened through these other fields, all related in a field I recently learned is called "time-domain" astronomy: It's things in astronomy that matter when they're happening.
And I appreciate the work that you're doing, and we have a mutual goal of telling the people of America, and especially the schoolchildren of America, that a solar eclipse is a fantastically interesting thing to see. It shows that if you buckle down and study math and science, you can really predict what's going on in the world, and you can have a fantastic experience.
Thank you very much, sir. That is indeed what I hope comes from all this!
Well, let's go "down under" now, to visit with Terry Cuttle!
Any way that I can help - very happy to do that!
I was an engineer - an electrical engineer.
I worked on airports - so I had a bit of an opportunity to travel. And there were a few eclipses where I was able to actually sort of tag along to a work trip - which was really good, you know, if somebody else pays for it, that's fantastic!
I recognized that it was a great opportunity to try and expose kids to some real science, in terms of - look, this can be predicted, and it WILL happen on the time, and it will be spectacular, and it's a real demonstration of maths and science!
And this, quite frankly, was a huge effort - in terms of getting this education program together.
Indeed. Well, we'll have a lot more to talk with you about later on!
Back to California now - Hello, Mr. Mark! We've saved you for last!
We've been in business for over 40 years, and we started making eclipse glasses back in 1989. Our first total solar eclipse that we were involved in - as far as glasses production - was Hawaii and Baja in 1991.
We've followed all the certifications, through the 1990s all the way to now.
God only knows how many people have had the opportunity to safely look at the Sun, and to experience this type of event - safely!
I know we've made millions and millions of glasses!
It's been a pleasure and, and really kind of an honor, to be able to do this.
Well, that's it for our first topic -
Let's move on now, and find out how many total eclipses our panelists have experienced for themselves!