‘Celebration of the Sun’ begins Saturday

Staff Report

Looking for a bright idea for summer family fun?

For three weekends in July, Ohio Wesleyan University’s Perkins Observatory will host “Celebration of the Sun” daytime skywatches. The Saturday-only programs will be held at 4 p.m. July 8, 15, and 22 at the observatory, 3199 Columbus Pike (U.S. 23), Delaware.

The “Celebration of the Sun” events replace the observatory’s Friday skywatches for those three weeks, when the sun sets too late to schedule evening programs, said Tom Burns, director of the observatory. Weather permitting, Perkins staff and volunteers will help guests to view sunspots and solar prominences — explosions on the sun’s surface, using special telescopes and eclipse glasses.

Burns cautions it is not safe for people to look at the sun without appropriate eye protection and the supervision of trained astronomers.

Other planned “Celebration of the Sun” activities include rocket launches, sundial demonstrations, views of a 1,000-yard model of the solar system, tours of the observatory, and, of course, the Perkins ghost story, Burns said.

This year’s “Celebration of the Sun” programs take on special significance because of the upcoming solar eclipse, he said.

On Aug. 21, starting at about 1:04 p.m., Central Ohio will experience a partial solar eclipse as the moon passes in front of the sun, Burns said. By 1:10 p.m., observers using safe viewing methods will see a tiny bite missing from the solar disk. By 2:30 p.m., the region will experience maximum eclipse, when more than 80 percent of the sun’s disk will be blocked. After 2:30 p.m., the moon will expose larger and larger parts of the sun until 3:52 p.m., when the eclipse is completed.

Over a narrow path between 50 miles and 70 miles wide, the eclipse will be total for up to 2.5 minutes, Burns said. That path, stretching from the west coast in Oregon to the east coast in South Carolina, will pass closest to Ohio in Tennessee and Kentucky.

“During totality, the outer atmosphere of the sun, called the corona, will be revealed,” Burns said. “The period of totality has been called the most beautiful and rare natural sight that humans can behold.”

The safest method for observing the eclipse is with eclipse glasses, Burns said. To help ensure local skywatchers are ready for the August event, Perkins Observatory is teaming up with area Half Price Books stores to sell eclipse glasses beginning June 5. The glasses will come with a brochure that includes eclipse times and safe, alternative methods for observing the phenomenon. Profits from selling the glasses will be used to make repairs to the nonprofit Perkins Observatory and to enhance its public activities.

Following the Saturday “Celebration of the Sun” events, the observatory will return to its regularly scheduled Friday evening programs on July 28. On that date and throughout May, June, and August, the observatory’s Friday skywatches will begin at 9 p.m. All programs will begin with a talk describing that night’s visible astronomical objects and a discussion of the upcoming solar eclipse. Weather permitting, guests also will observe the sky using the observatory’s 32-inch Schottland Telescope.

Reservations are strongly recommended for all Perkins Observatory events, as many programs sell out. Advance tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children (17 and under), and $8 for senior citizens (62 and older). Tickets are $2 more if purchased at the door. To reserve tickets or determine at-the-door availability, call 740-363-1257.

Staff Report