It seems the eclipse is the gift that keeps giving. After coming home and writing about my eclipse adventure, I was contacted by Matt Penn, the lead investigator of the Citizen CATE project. You can find more information on the experiment here: https://citizencate.org The project is still seeking donors and decided to make a Kickstarter video to aid in gathering funds. So Caitlin and I flew down to the National Solar Observatory to get the footage.
Currently, Research Experience For Undergraduates (REU) students are spending the summer at the NSO in Tucson. They are analyzing data from telescope tests done in Indonesia during the 2016 total solar eclipse in Indonesia and preparing for the 2017 total solar eclipse. Sarah Kovac is the student representative from Southern Illinois University Carbondale attending the research experience. Bob Baer and Sarah will then lead the Illinois telescope groups which hopefully will include me and my students at Gallatin County if there is enough funding for us to be volunteers! Read more about Bob and Sarah’s 2016 eclipse experience here.
July 25th was our travel day. After delays in both Evansville and Dallas we arrived in Tucson pretty late in the night, late enough we were left with the last rental car, free upgrade! The next morning after having breakfast we arrived at the NSO. We set up in our office for the next couple of days to get started on the work for the week: the promotional video and final student presentations.
After finishing our day filming at Cienega High School, we noticed a storm coming towards us. It turns out we were visiting during the monsoon season, which I didn’t even know Tucson had a monsoon season. The southwest landscape with a backdrop of the rains rolling towards us really brought out some beautiful light and colors. We finished the night walking around the campus of the University of Arizona and exploring food options.
Our shooting schedule for the second day gave us some time to do some sight seeing. With our short trip, we had to make a choice, Biosphere 2 or Kitt Peak. I really wanted to see Biosphere 2 but considering the nature of our trip and the potential closing of the McMath-Pierce Telescope (the largest solar telescope in the world), we decided to visit Kitt Peak. After our tour we headed back to the NSO for the first round of student presentations.
That night, Ha Kin, who had been working in LA for the past couple of months, flew in to Tucson to catch up. According to Ha Kin, she has a certain kind of luck, where situations turn complicated but eventually work out in the end, much like the situation we found ourselves in at her hotel. After over an hour, the hotel couldn’t find any record of her having reservations, she did and we had all the paperwork. But finally, she was able to check in and rest.
Our last day in town we decided to go to the downtown area before the last set of student presentations. I usually like to take a long walk around to really see a place versus driving and missing everything and everyone. I love the heat and never mind being hot but in less than an hour we needed to find water fast!
We finished the afternoon at the NSO filming the final student presentations. We packed up our equipment and headed directly next door to the Steward Observatory to talk to Dr. Glenn Schneider who was instrumental in the planning of the eclipse flight I was on back in March. After watching the interview, I feel confident to move forward with a full length documentary about the eclipse.
When we walked around town earlier that day, we noticed a tall hill with an “A” on it that seemed close by and would have a cool vantage point for viewing the rains. Sentinel Peak Park turned out to be one of my favorite memories of Tucson. I shot most of the scenes for my "Tucson Skies" video there. After hiking around, we started seeing lightning just as the sun was also setting. Floods of cars and cameras came up to the peak to get shots of the storm.
The next morning we said goodbye to Ha Kin and prepared for our flight. But the monsoons would cause our flight to be cancelled giving us an extra day with no work in the schedule. Biosphere 2 was now on! I had read about it when I was younger, or was probably read to, considering I remember learning about it in first grade, when the first mission took place. It is now operated by University of Arizona and if you are on the fence about climate disruption, then this is a place to see the evidence. The tour did not disappoint and Caitlin and I made a short educational video. Biosphere 2 goes on my list as the number 1 dream field trip.
With the 2017 eclipse still ahead I’m looking forward to more possibilities and opportunities that may arise.