Willmar astronomy students in class during ‘best astronomy year’
WILLMAR -- The astronomy students at Willmar Senior High picked a great time to take that class. This fall they've seen a lunar eclipse, a comet pass through the Mars atmosphere, sun spots and a meteor shower. One of the highlights may have been ...
WILLMAR - The astronomy students at Willmar Senior High picked a great time to take that class.
This fall they’ve seen a lunar eclipse, a comet pass through the Mars atmosphere, sun spots and a meteor shower. One of the highlights may have been Thursday afternoon, when students gathered in a parking lot to see a 60-percent eclipse of the sun with a sun spot visible.
“It’s pretty rare that you get an eclipse this good this far north,” instructor Robert Palmer said. “It’s been the best astronomy year.”
Palmer set up several telescopes, and students used a variety of homemade methods to see the eclipse. A person’s retinas can be damaged by looking straight at the sun, so Palmer offered them several options.
A wireless connection to a 10-inch reflecting telescope with a solar filter allowed students to watch it on their iPads or cell phones. Palmer showed them how to view the eclipse by making a web with their hands.
Solar filters on other telescopes made it safe to watch the eclipse directly. An 8-inch catadioptric telescope with a solar filter was adjusted
Palmer used a smaller refracting telescope to cast an image on a piece of cardboard.
“This telescope is modeled after the one Galileo used,” he told the students. “He used it to look at sunspots.”
The clear blue sky and mild temperatures made for a great view of the eclipse from the parking lot west of the Kandi Entertainment Center in southeast Willmar.
“This is my favorite class,” said Hannah Pallansch, a 16-year-old junior.
Palmer schedules star parties for the class a couple evenings a week, weather permitting.
“We look at all sorts of different things in the night sky - constellations, planets, the bands of Jupiter,” Hannah said.
Diego Millan, 17, a junior, used his iPad to watch the eclipse. He took screenshots as the moon cast a growing shadow across the bright sun.
The character of the sunlight changed as more of the sun was covered. The eclipse reached its peak at 5:30 p.m.
“I like it a lot,” Diego said about Palmer’s astronomy class. “We are pretty lucky; we’ve seen a lot of stuff.”