Solar eclipse offers out-of-this-world learning opportunity for W&J students

Created: August 31, 2017  |  Last Updated: January 14, 2020  |  Category:   |  Tagged:

WASHINGTON, PA (Aug. 31, 2017) – Totally awesome.

Those two words best describe six Washington & Jefferson (W&J) College students’ trip to view the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

Assistant Professor Cory Christenson, Ph.D., and Associate Professor Mike McCracken, Ph.D., both of W&J’s Physics Department, plotted a course for Kentucky, taking the students to a viewing spot in the eclipse’s path of totality for an outside-the-classroom experience.

To safely view the celestial event, the students prepared their own diffraction glasses with solar film and the group brought along a solar telescope to get a closer view.

The group stayed in Louisville before traveling to the SolQuest festival in Cerulean, Ky., to join other astronomers, both professional and amateur, looking to the skies.

“We wanted to give the students the chance to experience the eclipse in the path of totality. It’s possible that if you were in Washington, Pennsylvania, during the eclipse, you might not have noticed what was happening,” Christenson said.

That wasn’t the case in Cerulean. In the two and a half minutes that the sun was completely covered, the environmental changes were obvious as the sky darkened.

The students were excited to have witnessed the natural phenomenon.

“The weather for the eclipse was fantastic, there might have been two clouds in the sky, total. It was definitely an unforgettable experience,” said Patrick Fullerton ’19.

“The eclipse itself was absolutely amazing. It was such a unique experience. We were all pretty amazed and tried capturing the moment, but the pictures didn’t do the day justice,” Lottie Murray ’19 added.

(Get a glimpse of W&J’s eclipse crew and their Kentucky adventure in the photo album below.)

2017 Eclipse Kentucky Trip

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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