Solar Eclipse Captivates Campus Visitors

Tuesday, April 09, 2024
People looking at the solar eclipse on the Rose-Hulman football field.

Alumni and other guests joined students, faculty, and staff members scattered throughout Cook Stadium and visited the Oakley Observatory while taking advantage of campus being in the path of totality for this spring’s solar eclipse.

This spring’s total solar eclipse may have lasted less than four minutes, but its awe-inspiring splendor left a lasting impression on the more than 1,100 students, alumni, faculty, staff, family, friends and visitors who witnessed the unique event on the Rose-Hulman campus.

“Science, and especially astronomy, put on quite a show,” said Assistant Professor of Physics and Optical Engineering Elizabeth Melton, PhD, whose role as Director of Rose-Hulman’s Oakley Observatory organized educational activities for the campus event. “It’s nice to see people taking time to step away from their normal daily routines to enjoy the wonders of science. It was quite an experience and a special day that we (Rose-Hulman) could share with so many others.”

The Office of Alumni Relations reports that approximately 500 alumni had registered to attend the eclipse viewing party, taking advantage of the opportunity to take close-up views of the historic event through high-powered telescopes in the campus’ Oakley Observatory and other smaller portable telescopes scattered around the Cook Stadium. Guests also could watch elements of the eclipse unfold from a broadcast shown on a large video scoreboard at the stadium.   

They were serenaded by the college’s radio station broadcasting such popular tunes as the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and Claude Debussy’s “Claire de lune” (French for “Moonlight”). Nearby, Moon Pies were being sold to customers of all ages at a concession stand.

The eclipse’s path of totality put Rose-Hulman in a prime location for guests to put on safety solar-viewing glasses, look skyward, and witness the historic event.

Making a 190-mile trek from Chicago to join in the fun were 1975 civil engineering alumnus Walter Flood, his son, 2003 civil engineering graduate Walt, two grandchildren, and a niece.

“Any day that I can spend with my son and grandchildren is special, but this made it even more grand,” said Walter.

Walt added, “Upon learning that Rose-Hulman was inviting alumni to this special eclipse-viewing event, I just knew we had to be here. Rose is just a special place with special people. This event and day made it even more unique.”

A large group of college students from Rose-Hulman, Indiana State University, University of Illinois, and Washington University in St. Louis gathered near midfield of the Phil Brown football field to view as the moon slowly crept in between the sun and Earth, causing a momentary period of darkness, cooler temperatures, and quietness in the air.   

“This was truly spectacular. I’m glad I got to experience this with my friends,” said senior optical engineering major Arjent Imeri. “I was happy to witness this astronomy event at the No. 1 optical engineering school in the country.”

At the Oakley Observatory, mechanical engineering junior Savvy Stevens, one of several student volunteers for the day’s educational festivities, remarked while helping guests view the eclipse, “We’re in the right place at the right time. Space is so interesting and studying Earth and the Solar System is so awesome.” She became interested in astronomy after taking a class with Melton, which included several evenings observing astronomical objects through telescopes in the observatory.

Freshman electrical engineering student Oliver Moseley was experiencing his second solar eclipse after witnessing a similar event that passed through his hometown in Driggs, Idaho in 2017. “It’s exciting that such a rare phenomenon happened in two places where I have lived, seven years apart,” he said.

Mechanical Engineering Professor and 1990 alumnus Thom Adams, PhD, is hoping to view his third solar eclipse during 2028 while living in Spain after retirement.

“It’s such a serene occurrence when the sun, moon, and Earth are in such perfect alignment, and we get to witness it right before our very eyes. Science is so cool,” he said.      

The next solar eclipse in which Rose-Hulman will be in the path of totality will occur in 2153, according to Melton.