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SUNY Oswego preps for busy solar eclipse day

On April 8, a total solar eclipse will sweep through North America, and we are right in the path of totality. For faculty, staff, and students at SUNY Oswego, it’s a chance to bring the school and community together for an historic event.

Katelyn Barber is an assistant professor in SUNY Oswego’s Department of Atmospheric and Geological Sciences. She’s also leading a team of about 18 students for NASA’s Nationwide Eclipse Ballooning Project.

The team will launch a weather balloon every hour for 30 hours starting during the afternoon on April 7 to collect critical data to send to NASA.

"We're collecting temperature, wind speed, relative humidity, wind direction and pressure, and those are some of our key variables for meteorological science and also for trying to identify what's known as stratosphere gravity waves. They're these oscillations in air motion," said Barber.

Barber said this is just one way SUNY Oswego students and staff are benefiting from being in the path of totality of a total solar eclipse. Faculty members like Barber are guiding students through a number of projects, everything from analysis of the waves of Lake Ontario to how different animals behave during the eclipse.

"It's really a dream come true,” said Barber. “I'm a junior faculty member. I just joined a few semesters ago, so (the ballooning project) is like my first project where I'm really taking charge of it and trying to organize and teach our students, and they get this really cool opportunity to put on their resume."

The project team has already spoken at local schools about what they’re doing and has more informational sessions planned. On eclipse day, they’ll be manning tables and giving tours of the site.

That’s just one way SUNY Oswego is getting the community involved. Tina Cooper, SUNY Oswego’s internship and student employment coordinator, said while tickets to the Rice Creek Observatory are sold out, there are still plenty of great places on campus to watch the eclipse.

"We're lifting all of our parking restrictions that day through our university police, so that people can come out. We're selling glasses to the public for $2 a piece," said Cooper.

The campus will host a number of activities on eclipse day, including a planetarium show, craft stations, book displays, and scientific demonstrations. Cooper said, even if you don’t usually think of yourself as a scientist, this is still an opportunity worth checking out.

"Any of these folks who are coming to campus for talks or demonstrations, they know what they're doing,” Cooper said. “You will understand what they're talking about. Feel free to ask questions. Do not feel like you're not supposed to be a part of the sciences just because you yourself did not educate in science at some point."

SUNY Oswego is welcoming the public even before the eclipse for a STEM Community Day Saturday, April 6. It will include hands-on and informational activities for kids and adults.

For the latest information about SUNY Oswego’s eclipse events, visit their website.

Click here for a list of other eclipse events happening around central and northern New York

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.