Library prepares locals for solar eclipse

NASA volunteers promote safety while traveling around region
By Marie Haaland | Beacon reporter | Aug 02, 2017
Photo by: Marie Haaland Roger Kennedy explains the spectroscope to a participant July 31 at the Mukilteo Library.

Mukilteo may be outside the path of totality, but residents can still expect to see the rare total solar eclipse the morning of Monday, Aug. 21 – or at least most of it.

A 94-percent eclipse will be visible at about 10:20 a.m., and Sno-Isle Libraries is doing its part to get people ready.

The local library system has enlisted Roger and Linda Kennedy, who are traveling the country for NASA and holding events to teach people about the eclipse, what they can expect to see and how to do it safely. The Kennedys held one of those events at the Mukilteo Library on Monday, July 31.

Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Kennedys are volunteers from the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO), an agency within NASA.

“Everything we do is volunteer, we don’t get any pay for this,” Roger said. “Our travel costs are on us; we get grants for our equipment. This year we’ll probably do about 150 events. Last year we did 210, so we’re out almost every other day.”

The Kennedys had several different pieces of equipment set up outside the library. Roger Kennedy was explaining a spectroscope, which analyzes light, to a crowd of children. Linda Kennedy was looking at hydrogen emissions through a hydrogen alpha telescope, which corresponds to the red light that our sun gives off.

Inside the library, they had a table with beads that react to ultraviolet light and pipe cleaners so kids could make bracelets. The beads appear white while inside, but change colors when they receive light from the sun.

During this month’s eclipse, the Kennedys plan to be in Madras, Oregon, which is considered a top viewing spot.

“We’re part of Team No. 1 with SDO, and we’re going to be at Madras High School with about 15,000 other people,” Roger said.

The Kennedys are going to be part of the group starting NASA’s live stream, which will follow the eclipse from Oregon to South Carolina using 11 different stations across the U.S. They are going to the high school Sunday morning and won’t be able to leave until Tuesday morning because of the crowds coming into Oregon.

“The last communication I got from central Oregon emergency agencies, between the Cascades and John Day, they’re expecting 2.4 million people,” he said. “Just in that area.”

The Kennedys stressed safety when viewing the eclipse, especially in places like Mukilteo, where it isn’t a total eclipse.

“Up here, you can’t look at the sun at all without special equipment – glasses, telescopes and things like that because you’re going to see part of the sun,” he said.

During their event at the library, the pair handed out solar glasses, which make it safe to view the eclipse. The peak of the eclipse will last about two minutes and during that time, a few things will happen.

“The temperature will go down, birds will stop singing,” Roger said. “It will be like being out with a full moon, that kind of thing.”

A few hundred people came to the library to view the sun with the Kennedys. One of them was Irene Watson, who brought her six-year-old granddaughter. Watson said that both she and her granddaughter learned a lot about the sun and the eclipse – which they are excited to view from Mukilteo in August.

“I brought her for the experience,” Watson said. “It’s a big event.”

The Kennedys will be at the Edmonds Library at 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7, and the Mill Creek Library at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13. A viewing party is set to begin at 10 a.m. Aug. 21 at the Mariner Library, and protective glasses will be provided.

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