“The Day the Sun Goes Out for 2½ Minutes” sounds like a science fiction movie, but it’s real science that Kansas City Astronomy Society members will be sharing on March 18 when one of their own, Joseph S. Wright, speaks about the August solar eclipse. Excelsior Springs is a prime viewing location when the eclipse reaches totality.
With growing interest in the upcoming solar eclipse, the lecture-presentation, first scheduled at the Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives, has been moved to the Excelsior Springs High School Performing Arts Center at 612 Tiger Dr. The event will be free, but attendees may make a freewill donation to support the event.
Science teachers and all students are especially encouraged to attend the free March 18 event. Members of the Kansas City Astronomy Society are expected to be on hand to answer questions and share a variety of telescopes.
Wright, a rural Lawson resident, is the operations manager for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Warkoczewski Observatory. His presentation will provide a framework for the upcoming event as the community prepares to celebrate in August with a two-day Solar Fest. He’ll cover what a solar eclipse is, why and how it occurs, how to prepare for safe viewing – and why this is an historic event for the Excelsior Springs community.
Wright also has supplied the components for the Museum’s new Great American Solar Eclipse display, which includes a replica of Galileo’s telescope and a comparison of meteorites to earth rocks. The display, created by Design/Display Team chair Linda Brink, is on view now at the Museum at 101 East Broadway Ave. Until April 1, the Museum is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. On April 1, a five-day schedule will resume, adding Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Wright has years of experience behind a telescope, beginning as a Boy Scout working on the astronomy merit badge at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation. Years later, he was invited to attend Astronomy Camp for Girl Scout trainers at the University of Arizona under the Spitzer Space Telescope. He has been able to teach generations of scouts what they’re seeing when they look at objects in the sky.
Wright has been a member of the Astronomy Society of Kansas City since 1996 and served seven years as president and 1½ years as director of Powell Observatory. He has logged five training sessions under NASA’s Spitzer and James Webb space telescope missions to Tucson and the Goddard Space Flight Center near Baltimore.
As a volunteer, he has joined a NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) public outreach efforts as a Solar System Ambassador. He just recently completed two sub-orbital flights aboard SOFIA, NASA’s 747 airborne observatory imaging in the infrared (IR) spectrum of light, under the SETI Institute’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassador volunteer program. This was part of his proposal to teach Girl Scouts and the public about SOFIA’s science and IR astronomy. His proposal was one of those selected from 90 submissions. In addition, a year ago he attended a training session in Oakland with SETI under the MAVEN Mission currently doing research on Mars.
The Museum is participating with the city, Chamber and Downtown Excelsior Partnership in the community’s efforts to create August’s Solar Fest, a new premier event to showcase the city’s offerings to the visitors here to take advantage of a prime viewing location.
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