Columbia University Gets Ready for the Eclipse

March 18, 2024

It’s time to get excited about the total solar eclipse on April 8!

The upcoming eclipse is truly a special event: the next solar eclipse with a path of totality passing through the contiguous United States won’t be until 2044 (but, even then, totality will only graze the northern edge of the country). As such, here are some ways that the Columbia Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics is hyping up this monumental event: 

  • Throughout March and early April, pairs of astronomy graduate and undergraduate students will be visiting six branches of the New York Public Library to talk about the eclipse and to lead some educational eclipse-related activities. These library visits will primarily be geared towards children and their parents. See this page for more details.
  • Faculty are spread further afield along the path of totality. Jacqueline van Gorkom is giving library talks in and around Wadams, NY. Kathryn Johnston joined choreographer and directors Neva Cockrell and Raphael Sacks at the Wildheart Culture Hub as they worked on creating dances for performances in public parks on April 8th in Oberlin, OH.
  • During a few sunny spring days throughout March and early April, small groups of astro grad students will be taking our portable H-alpha telescope out to College Walk to observe the Sun with passersby, to raise awareness of the upcoming eclipse, and to distribute eclipse glasses.
  • During our public astro night on the evening of March 22, we will spend some time detailing the science and logistics of the upcoming eclipse, in addition to handing out eclipse glasses to interested attendees.
  • Leading up to the eclipse, we will be posting short interviews with Columbia astronomers on our social media (linked here), highlighting individual department members’ plans for April 8.

While the department will largely be scattered on the day of the eclipse – with some astronomers headed to upstate New York, some to Vermont, and some to Texas – the department members that remain on campus will be out on College Walk distributing eclipse glasses and observing the partial eclipse alongside their fellow Columbians.

Everyone is reminded that it is unsafe to look directly at the sun during a partial eclipse -- certified eclipse glasses should be warn to avoid eye damage (see here for more information).