Solar Telescope

Elementary students view sun through NASA solar telescope
Posted on 10/24/2023
Connie Roberson and Carol Leezer

Students are getting to experience some rare celestial events this school year due in large part to Poplar Bluff’s locale in the heartland.

In preparation for the total eclipse in several months, O’Neal had the opportunity to view the sun through one of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s hydrogen-alpha solar telescopes and additional binoculars supplied last week.

“It looks just like the moon,” third grader Dayton Brooks remarked on Tuesday, Oct. 17, in the elementary school parking lot.

The Poplar Bluff Municipal Library secured the Coronado Personal Solar Telescope through the Solar Eclipse Activities for Libraries (SEAL) program, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and Space Science Institute.

Children & Youth Services Librarian Connie Roberson applied for the solar science kit that the Missouri State Library has been circulating on behalf of NASA, and will have the device for the next month and a half, and again in mid-February, she said. Additional visits this week have been lined up for Eugene Field and Oak Grove.

“I love that they were able to do this for us,” O’Neal Librarian Ashley Robertson said of the district’s partnership with the Municipal Library. Personnel from the public library have been participating in the school system’s collaboration days to help strengthen the relationship, according to Robertson, who used to work in the children’s section before accepting a position at O’Neal Elementary.

“You’re going to see a little white dot,” Robertson informed the students. “That’s what it’s gonna look like, but that is the sun!”

Student Carlie Davis joked afterward how: “It looks like a cheeseball.” The third grader continued: “That is so cool! I want to look at the moon now.”

Carlie noted that she was able to experience the annular eclipse that was partially visible the previous Saturday. “This weekend, my neighbor had these cool glasses to look at the sun,” she explained about the special solar viewers designed for gazing directly at the sky.

The ‘ring of fire’ surrounding the dark sphere of the moon on Oct. 14 only served as an appetizer for the total eclipse, when the sun will be blocked out completely on Monday, April 8. Money Talks News, a nationally syndicated consumer/personal finance news site, listed Poplar Bluff in the seven best places to observe the event beginning at 1:56 p.m., as the eclipse moves northeast from Mexico to Canada.

For approximately four minutes, Poplar Bluff will have more visibility in totality than any other sizable community, with a band three times as great as the last such event in 2017 as the path stretches over 100 miles wide, the Chamber of Commerce reported. The next total eclipse to cross the continental United States will not occur until Aug. 12, 2045, according to the STAR (Science-Technology Activities & Resources) Library Network.


Cutline: Connie Roberson of the Poplar Bluff Municipal Library, whose husband Kevin is an amateur astrophotographer, assists Carol Leezer, grade three, in operating the solar telescope on Friday, Oct. 20, at O’Neal Elementary.

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