Drury participates in national citizen science project to study eclipse

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., August 15, 2017 — Two Drury University physics professors and two of their students will take part in a national effort to observe and document the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

Drs. Greg Ojakangas and Bruce Callen have been tapped to be one of 68 teams to work with the National Solar Observatory’s Citzen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) Experiment to document the sun’s inner corona during the eclipse. Along with Drury students Ryan Wedermyer and Katelyn Morrison, they will travel to Hermann, Missouri to be in the path of the eclipse totality and make their observations.

Professors Bruce Callen (left) and Greg Ojakangas

The Citizen CATE project aims to capture images of the eclipse using a network of telescopes operated by citizen scientists, high school groups, and universities. Volunteers are using 68 identical telescopes, software, and instrument packages spaced along the 2,500-mile path of totality. Each site will produce more than 1,000 images, and the resulting dataset will consist of an unprecedented 90 minutes of continuous, high-resolution images detailing the sun’s inner corona – a region of the solar atmosphere typically very challenging to image.

“I have been waiting for this for 38 years,” says Ojakangas, whose previous work with NASA provided a connection to the Citizen CATE project. “I get goosebumps almost every time I think of it!”

“An eclipse of this nature is a rare occurrence,” Callen says. “The chance just to witness it three hours from where I live and work is exciting enough, but the chance to contribute to a big national effort that will possibly advance our understanding of the sun is a great opportunity.”

The Citizen CATE project has been several years in the making. Teams will have no more than 2 minutes and 40 seconds – the time of the total eclipse as seen from the Earth’s surface – to capture their images. Ojakangas and Callen will be available for interviews during practice sessions on Wednesday and Friday morning outside of the Trustee Science Center on the Drury campus, starting at approximately 9 a.m.

ALSO: A Musical Angle

There’s also an artistic angle on this scientific story. Ojakangas’s daughter Celka is a 2015 Drury music graduate who is now studying music composition at the University of Southern California, one of the top graduate schools for music composition in the country. Inspired by her passion for both art and science, Celka and her brothers Kieran (a 2014 Drury alumnus) and Lian will perform a piece of her original music that is synchronized exactly to the timing of the eclipse, accompanied by a computer-generated background tone generated by Ojakangas.

“The tone drops 6 octaves as totality approaches, in precise relation to the rate that sunlight is diminishing, then rises again afterwards. Celka’s composition is a musical palindrome based on a Greek Orthodox chant celebrating the light of Christ,” explains Ojakangas.

Celka, Kieran and Lian Ojakangas will perform as an electric string trio at the site where the Drury team will conduct their CATE observation work. The site is located at Hermann Hill Village, 165 Missouri Hwy 100. More information on the location and festivities sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce are online at http://visithermann.com/2017-solar-eclipse/.

For more information about the musical composition, contact Celka Ojakangas via email at ojakanga@usc.edu.

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Media Contact: Mike Brothers, Director of Media Relations: (417) 873-7390 or mikebrothers@drury.edu.