Concrete pads to help researchers during solar eclipse

There’s now a better place to observe the upcoming solar eclipse. Workers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently finished laying 10 concrete pads at SIU’s Dark Site —an observatory spot near the campus’ farms.

Each pad is 10 by 10 feet in an open clearing of a field near the campus.

Bob Baer, co-chair of the SIU Steering Committee for the Solar Eclipse, says the pads specifically cater to research during the total solar eclipse that will pass over the area next August.

“All the pads are laid out in an orientation kind of facing south. The ones over here are facing more southwest, but every one of these pads has a good view of the eclipse for research purposes," Baer said. But they’re not just for anyone.

The pads will be used by research teams — some students, some scientists — to observe the eclipse. Some of SIU’s research teams will be studying the eclipse as part of Citizen CATE, a project they and other teams around the country are working with NASA on as part of a cross-country study of the solar eclipse. Their hope is to get new data but also a complete cross-country picture of the eclipse crossing over the U.S.

For that, Baer says the equipment each team is using needs to be unbothered by movement. That’s where the concrete pads come in.

"The researchers that will be here don’t just have telescopes, but they have telescopes with spectrometers attached to them that are looking at different spectra within the corona. And they can only do that during a total solar eclipse. So, they need a very stable platform to set that equipment up on, and that’s what these pads provide," Baer said.

Until the eclipse, Baer says students and amateur astronomers will be able to use the pads for observations and stargazing. He says they expect to begin using the newly-laid pads by winter.

Can’t get enough astronomy? Baer and others with the SIU astronomy program will be holding a Supermoon observation event 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Neckers Observation Deck. For more information, click here.

To find out where you can see the 2017 solar eclipse near you, visit the National Eclipse website by clicking here.

For more information on what’s going on in Carbondale for the weekend of the eclipse, click here.

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