On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse was visible across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. Events were scheduled along the Eclipse’s path and off the path of totality including one here on the University of Northern Iowa campus, where about 90% of the sun was blocked.
About 1400 UNI students, faculty, staff and members of the community came into Rod Library to get solar eclipse glasses and pin hole eclipse projectors being given away. With even more people surrounding the library and the telescopes set up at the Campanile.. Some families came from Cedar Falls and neighboring communities with their homemade viewers made from cereal boxes and other supplies while others came hoping to obtain one of the limited number solar glasses.
One big surprise was that the Iowa Academy of Science was able to obtain moon rocks from NASA Johnson Space Center Astro Materials Curation. A plastic disk containing moon rock samples collected by Apollo Mission astronauts were on display throughout the event and were watched over by UNI Police. Children and adults waited in anticipation to hold and view these rocks under a microscope and to ask questions of Eve Halligan, the Program Coordinator of the Iowa Academy of Science.
Eve was surprised as to how many people were at the library early to watch NASA online and experience the stations set up prior to the Eclipse which peaked at 1:10 pm. She went on to say that it “Feels good to give back to the community” and that it was fun to watch the community get excited about the world around them which goes to show that “they are interested in science and what is going on in the world.”
The 2017 Eclipse party was a unique and rare event on campus. STEM Ambassador Jake Parks, a UNI Physics Major, was ready to show party goers how to utilize their smart phones by downloading an app that would give them a 3D Virtual Reality experience and information about various planets, moons, and other objects in our solar system. Participants also flipped through a set of NASA braille books about earth and space exploration. Marcy Seavey, UNI STEM Coordinator, was busy helping answer questions, directing people and collecting data about outside air temperature changes for NASA. The temperature outside the Rod Library began to drop 40 minutes before the Eclipse peak and continued to drop for about 20 minutes before it began to heat back up.
Outside you would have found Dr. Morgan of the Earth & Environmental Science department ready to help people use telescopes to view the sky. Unfortunately, due to the cloudy weather, the telescopes only had a few fleeting minutes where a good view of the sun could be found.
A number of programs and organizations were essential in making the UNI Eclipse Party a success. These included the Iowa Academy of Science, the Earth & Environmental Science department, UNI STEM, Rod Library, UNI Police, the GLOBE Program and NASA Johnson Space Center. The Iowa Academy of Science and UNI STEM would like to thank UNI Police Officer Lyons for her help during the event, NASA Johnson Space Center Astro Materials Curation for the loan of the moon rocks, Dr. Morgan for setting up telescopes and all the students and community members who chose to come to campus for this momentous event.