by nathan oster
As residents of cities that lie within the zone of totality stretching across Wyoming, people in Casper and Riverton have had months to read up on and prepare for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse. But in places like Greybull that lie outside the premium viewing area, far less is known, particularly about what is going to happen.
Logan Jensen, a 2014 graduate of Greybull High School, is trying to change that. The son of Ken and Kathy Jensen, Logan is an astronomy and astrophysics major at the University of Wyoming who for the past two summers has worked at the National Solar Observatory in Tucson.
Jensen will give a public presentation on the eclipse at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16 in the GHS auditorium. In it, he will discuss what local residents should expect and the difference between what they will see and what those lying inside the path of totality will see. He will also share activities designed to enrich the eclipse viewing experience and pass out free viewing glasses.
“I don’t want people here to be disappointed by what they see,” he said. “Above all else, I want them to know what to expect.”
While people inside the zone of totality will see darkness and experience a drop in temperature, “Up here it’ll just get dimmer,” said Jensen. “It won’t be as dark as nighttime. The sun will take the form of a crescent, about 97 percent of totality, if viewed properly.”
The NSO website at eclipse2017.nso.edu — in Jensen’s view, one of the best ones out there for eclipse information — has projected start, maximum and end eclipse times for every community in the nation.
In Greybull, the eclipse is due to start at 10:20 a.m., reach its max at 11:40 and end at 1:04 p.m.
Further east in Shell, it’ll start at 10:21, max out at 11:41 and end at 1:05 p.m.
For people within the primary viewing zone, totality is expected to last about 2 ½ minutes at every location along the path. The first people to experience it will be those on the western edge of the state, at about 11:34 a.m. The last ones will be those on the eastern edge, starting at about 11:46 a.m.
Jensen will also emphasize safety in his presentation in Greybull. “Looking at anything other than a totally eclipsed sun, without solar glasses, will damage your eyes permanently,” he said. He’ll bring with him several hundred of the viewing glasses to share with the audience.
The Citizen CATE Experiment, with which Jensen is involved, is making the glasses available.
According to its website, “the Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse) Experiment aims to capture images of the inner solar corona using a network of more than 60 telescopes operated by citizen scientists, high school groups and universities.
“CATE is currently a joint project involving volunteers from more than 20 high schools, 20 universities, informal education groups, astronomy clubs across the country, five national science research labs and five corporate sponsors.
“The goal of CATE is to produce a scientifically unique data set: high-resolution, rapid cadence white light images of the inner corona for 90 minutes.”
Jensen said he plans to watch the eclipse from the Citizen CATE filming location in Casper, one of 11 that will be set up that day in Wyoming.
It won’t be his first time. Two years ago, he traveled to Indonesia, which was experiencing an eclipse of its own in 2016, for a test run of the equipment that will be used to capture this year’s eclipse in the United States. Five different locations were established across the islands. He was unlucky that day; his viewing location was the only one that got clouded out.
Since then, he’s done two summers at the NSO in Tucson, Ariz., working with the data that was collected in Indonesia, developing software to improve the experiment and streamlining the data processing pipeline — all in preparation for Aug. 21, 2017.
For someone who is going into astronomy, Jensen couldn’t have timed his college years better. Prior to this year, the last eclipse across the mainland United States was 1979 and the last solar eclipse seen in Wyoming was in 1918.
Jensen pointed to his parents, both of whom are now retired after long teaching careers in the Greybull school district, as big influences on his career choice. “Growing up in Wyoming, with the open skies, we’d go out on dark nights, gaze at the stars and watch meteor showers as a family.
“I always had an interest in science — and astronomy was always what caught my interest the most.”
Logan’s older brother Trevor is also involved in a field of science. He is a marine biologist who got his start working in Florida. Most recently he was working in Mississippi. As a kid, Logan said his older brother loved the oceans, “maybe because that’s where we often travelled with our parents.
“So we joke about it often … that he took the oceans, I took the skies.”
Logan is entering his senior year at UW and plans to continue his education at grad school, with the long-range goal of becoming a college professor. “One of my favorite things to do is doing outreach, teaching and getting people excited,” he said. “I think that might come from my parents, the enjoyment I get out of explaining a complicated subject in ways people can understand.”