LCO did outreach activities in Texas to educate about eclipses

Together with Carnegie Science and the Perot Museum, Las Campanas Observatory gave talks and held massive workshops to educate the community about the total solar eclipse visible on April 8, 2024, in addition to teaching about the associated science and the precautions associated with its observation.

A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon, following its regular orbit, comes between the Sun and the Earth, bringing the three bodies into alignment for a terrestrial viewer. Since the apparent size of our satellite equals that of the Sun in the sky, the solar disk is totally or partially covered by the Moon. Last April 8, 2024, a total solar eclipse was experienced, visible in North America and had a totality longer than 4 minutes in some areas, which makes it a very special one.

To disseminate and educate about this event to the entire North Texas community (United States), Carnegie Science collaborated with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, of which Las Campanas Observatory (LCO) was part, with the participation of astronomers Nidia Morrell, resident astronomer; David Osip, Associate Director; Guillermo Blanc, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives; and Carol Rojas, Communications and Outreach Officer. Thus, LCO became the only institution present in Chile carrying out activities for school and family audiences in the entire area.

"The work Carnegie Science did in Dallas for the eclipse was extraordinary. I'm proud that our astronomers were able to interact directly with more than 15,000 children in the days leading up to the eclipse, and with millions of people through our media interviews. I think we were able to excite a lot of people, educating them to enjoy the eclipse safely, and transmitting to them the importance of astronomy and science," says Guillermo Blanc.
For Nidia Morrell, who had previously observed only the total solar eclipse visible in northern Chile on July 2, 2019, the experience was unforgettable. "In the schools the children had been preparing for our visit. For example, they had made posters related to astronomy. People were very interested in learning about the eclipse. The questions the children asked were extraordinary."

On the other hand, David Osip highlights the great enthusiasm, from the youngest to the oldest people. "At several events people didn't want to ask us a 'stupid question' and the surprise was that we, as astronomers, have those same kinds of questions, plus the same interest and fascination with the total eclipse experience. We're not just interested in the associated science." This is the third total solar eclipse observed by Osip, the first was in 1970 in Virginia Beach (USA), and the second in Chile during 2019. For Carol Rojas, who in her outreach work had previously conducted educational activities during the total solar eclipses visible in Chile in 2019 and 2020, the experience was enriching by allowing her to talk about astronomy with culturally different people with varied background knowledge on the subject.

LCO astronomers participated in various activities with Carnegie Science and the Perot Museum, both in schools (for students and their parents), in parks (for mass audiences), in events organized by various institutions for the community, and at the Perot Museum. These activities included talks and workshops and were held during the week prior to the event.

Las Campanas Observatory was under the zone of totality of the solar eclipse visible in Chile in July 2019, so the astronomers had previously participated in massive events related to the topic. "The opportunity to have this experience in our observatory, with all the preparation that it involved, was the most exciting and memorable thing on my part. This was the reference to explain to everyone in Dallas that a total solar eclipse is a multi-sensory experience: the silence of nature as day turns to night in an instant, the abrupt drop in temperature and, of course, the breathtaking view of the Sun's corona," Osip emphasizes. "The main difference between the 2019 eclipse and the one this April 8 in North America is that the latter was longer (in the 2019 eclipse in La Serena, totality lasted 2 minutes). Also, this time the Sun was much more active, and the bulges were visible. Nevertheless, both were wonderful spectacles," says Morrell.

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