Exploring the Eclipse and Galaxies - Hobart and William Smith Colleges
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Exploring the Eclipse and Galaxies

The last partial solar eclipse of this magnitude overtook the Geneva sky in the 1970s and on Monday, Aug. 21, the Hobart and William Smith community will gather to observe the historic event’s return to the Finger Lakes. Professor of Physics Leslie Hebb and Professor of Geoscience David Kendrick will guide students, faculty, staff and their families through the event with specially-equipped telescopes, binoculars and eclipse glasses on the Scandling Patio from 12 to 4 p.m. The public is welcome.

“We hope to be able to answer questions about why this phenomenon happens at all, explain the differences between a partial and total eclipse, and share some insights into what scientific value has come from viewing of eclipses,” says Kendrick. “Even so, maybe the most important thing is to share the excitement and interest that any human being would experience as these two bodies in the sky interact in a rare and fascinating way.”

This summer, Hebb also took the Geneva community to the Andromeda Galaxy and beyond with tours of the Richard S. Perkin Observatory — the final viewing of the summer series was held on Friday, Aug. 18. With the Perkin Telescope, visitors examined the Hercules Star Cluster, planetary nebulae and developing star regions like the Orion Nebula.

“I love listening in the dark when people first see the Moon or Jupiter or Saturn up close,” says Hebb. “I can’t see their faces, but I can hear their surprise, wonder and awe at the nearby universe.”

Hebb is also overseeing Avery Wickersham ’19, a math major, who is developing astronomy-centered science education activities for children in the Geneva area, and Zhiyi “Ben” Chen ’19, a physics major, who is developing computer software that can control the telescope.

“My favorite part of the summer has been going to the observatory because every time I get to see something new,” says Wickersham. “It is breathtaking looking at different deep space objects that are so far away and so beautiful.”

The Perkin Observatory will resume tours on Friday nights in the fall, depending on proper weather. The next solar eclipse is expected to go over Geneva, N.Y. in 2024.

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