Williams College Eclipse Expedition is Off to Siberia


The full moon of July 17th marked two weeks before the total solar eclipse of August 1st.  The moon takes those two weeks to move from opposite the sun in the sky over to passing in front of it, blocking the everyday solar surface.  Only when the everyday surface is blocked does it get a million times darker outside, allowing the faint outer layers of the sun to be seen and studied.


Williams College scientists Jay Pasachoff and Bryce Babcock are leading an expedition to Siberia in order to station themselves and their equipment in the path of totality, which is only hundreds of miles wide in spite of being thousands of miles long.  They will be joined by Williams College students Katherine Dupree '10 and Marcus Freeman '10 as well as Keck Northeastern Astronomy Consortium Summer Fellow Matthew Baldwin '10.  To provide vital Russian-language translation and liaison services, they will be joined by Williams College Russian History professor William Wagner.


The team leaves on Monday, July 21, on American Airlines's new nonstop service from Chicago to Moscow.  In Moscow, they will be hosted at the State University of Moscow.  On July 21, they will fly east to Novosibirsk, the third largest city in Russia.  Their observing site will be in collaboration with Dr. Allya Nestorenko of the State University of Novosibirsk and Dr. Igor Nestorenko of the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics.  The university is in Akademgorodok, a small, academic town about 20 km east of Novosibirsk.  There they will be joined by scientists from Poland, Australia, and Greece, and their number will swell to 29.  During their pre-eclipse week in Akademgorodok, they will be very busy setting up and testing equipment, working in collaboration with the Nestorenkos.


Their experiments deal with the solar corona, especially how it is heated to millions of degrees.  The expedition carries twin telescopes with different filters that pass only light from the hot coronal gas along with high-speed digital cameras of a special type.


Pasachoff is also collaborating with Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona who will view the eclipse aloft from high above the Arctic.  Pasachoff and Schneider previously collaborated on a similar observation over the Antarctic in 2003.  A platform controlled by two gyros will carry several cameras for recording eclipse images.


Pasachoff is Chair of the International Astronomical Union's Working Group on Eclipses. He has viewed 46 previous solar eclipses.



For information close to the time of eclipse, ask the Williams College News Office for Pasachoff's or Babcock's mobile phone numbers in Russia.


From July 26 through August 2nd, they will be staying at the

Zolotaya Dolina Hotel (translation: Golden Valley), ul. Iliicha, d. 10, Akademgorodok

tel from the US: 011 7 (383) 330-36-09, 330-19-16, 330-36-10; fax: 330-42-40

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