Solar eclipse: U-M experts can discuss

August 16, 2017
Laura Lessnau

Joel Bregman, the H.D. Curtis Professor of Astronomy, is an expert in X-ray observation and theory, which he uses to account for the “missing baryons,” or normal matter, in galaxies.

“For those in the path of totality, when the sun is fully eclipsed, you’ll be able to see stars and planets around the sun—four planets and several stars,” he said. “First, you’ll need to get one eye dark adapted for five minutes before totality to best see the stars. Either keep one eye closed or wear a patch, easily obtained in most pirate stores. The four planets in order of decreasing brightness are Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury. Venus is so bright that it will become visible to the naked eye 15 to 30 minutes before totality. Several minutes before totality, Jupiter becomes visible against the darkening sky, although if you’re in Oregon, it’s probably too low in the sky to see.

“During totality, you can see Mars, which will appear orange, and Mercury on opposite sides of the sun. Totality also reveals a number of stars, with Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, just to the left of the sun; the bright star Sirius is in the southwest. To give you a sense of scale on the sky, a clenched fist at arm’s length is about 10 degrees and Venus is about three and a half fists to the right of the sun. Nearly all the good stuff is from naked eye observations. The sun you still see during eclipse is from the corona, giant loops and streams of gas, so this is a special show.”

Contact: 734-764-2667,

Emily Rauscher, assistant professor of astronomy, is a theoretical astrophysicist who studies exoplanets—which are planets outside of our solar system—in orbit around other stars.

“I’m personally really excited about this upcoming solar eclipse,” she said. “I’ve witnessed a partial solar eclipse before, which is what will be visible from Michigan, but I’m traveling all the way to eastern Oregon in order to be in the path of totality.”

“Although this event is not directly related to my research, one of the methods that we use to study exoplanet atmospheres is to observe them when they pass between us and their host stars—but they only block a tiny fraction of the star’s light, in contrast to the solar eclipse. I wonder whether, after viewing a total solar eclipse, I will think of these transiting exoplanets in the same way.”

Contact: 734-647-6995,

Shannon Murphy is the instructional support and outreach coordinator for the U-M Department of Astronomy.

“Although the eclipse is only partial here in Michigan, it’s still totally worth watching,” she said. “Just don’t look at the sun directly. There are plenty of ways to safely watch it. If you’re using eclipse glasses or solar filters to look at the sun, make sure the only thing you can see through it is the sun. If you can see other things, it’s not good enough. If you’re using projection, like a pinhole projector, remember you’re supposed to look at the image of the sun, not through the pinhole.

“If you miss this one, the next next solar eclipse over Ann Arbor will be another partial in October 2023. The next total eclipse over U-M facilities will be on July 2, 2019. The eclipse will pass over La Serena, Chile, where the Cerro Tololo observatory is.”

Contact: 734-615-1584,

David Gerdes is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Physics and Astronomy.

His research interests include studies of distant objects in the solar system beyond Neptune. He will be leading a team of observers who will be photographing the total eclipse as part of the Citizen CATE project from a site in Oregon. This project will deploy 68 teams of observers with identical telescopes along the 2500-mile path of totality to assemble a continuous 90-minute HD movie of the solar corona.

Contact: 734-647-3807,

Rajesh Rao, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center.

A solar eclipse will offer a rare – although brief – sight to millions. Is it OK to take a peek? Not without eye protection, says Rajesh Rao, M.D. a retina surgeon at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. “It’s unsafe to look at the sun with your naked eye — or with conventional sunglasses, a smartphone, binoculars or a telescope.” That’s because staring at the sun, no matter how small the sliver or length of time, can cause temporary (and sometimes permanent) vision damage. “In Michigan, where we will have a partial eclipse, it’s important to wear solar filter glasses the whole time.”

Contact: Shantell M. Kirkendoll, 734-764-2220,