By Hannah Halusker
CLEMSON, South Carolina – Clemson University is abuzz over the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse that will put the university in the center path of totality for 2 minutes and 37 seconds, making Clemson one of the best locations in the state for viewing the spectacle. Now, national media are getting in on the excitement, too.
A Charlotte-based television crew from NBC National News was recently on campus to gather footage for a live, nationwide broadcast that aired on Friday, July 21. In the broadcast, science and medicine correspondent Erika Edwards can be seen conducting interviews with Clemson University scientists from the department of physics and astronomy on topics ranging from eclipse science, to safety, to the university’s “Eclipse Over Clemson” mega-event. The live taping aired on both the morning and evening newscasts of NBC affiliates across the country.
Edwards, her editor/producer Heather Holley and videographer Ben Traylor began gathering background footage on Thursday, July 20 for the broadcast. The crew started the day on the rooftop of the Watt Family Innovation Center, where professor Sean Brittain was conducting a test-run on the telescope that he will use to capture images of the Aug. 21 eclipse. Brittain’s telescope is one of 70 that will be placed along the path of totality across the contiguous United States on eclipse day, in an effort being organized by the Citizen CATE Experiment to capture the entire 90 minutes that the “Great American Eclipse” will be visible over the United States. Edwards spoke to Brittain about this experiment, and also on how to safely view eclipses through telescopes.
After lunch, Edwards interviewed Clemson University scientist Donald Liebenberg, who has personally witnessed and researched 26 total solar eclipses over the past 60-plus years. Liebenburg has studied these eclipses from the ground, on ships in the middle of oceans, and in airplanes. He even watched one eclipse from the cabin of a Concorde supersonic airliner, where he was able to remain within the window of totality for an astounding 74 minutes.
Thursday afternoon brought faculty from the College of Science’s department of physics and astronomy to the astronomy lab in Kinard Hall.
There, Mark Leising, interim dean of the College of Science – who has been a faculty member in the department of physics and astronomy for nearly 30 years – spoke to Edwards about how physicists can predict, down to the second, when an eclipse will occur. He also touched on the College of Science’s quest to understand and explain science to the general public.
Amber Porter, a lecturer of physics and astronomy, spoke on the logistics of the “Eclipse Over Clemson” event. She also demonstrated eclipse science by drawing out the configuration of the sun, moon and Earth during a total solar eclipse. “Baily’s beads,” a 360-degree sunset, changes in temperature, and the sun’s corona were other aspects of total solar eclipses that Porter explained in her interview.
Physics and astronomy graduate students Andrew Garmon and Cade Adams rounded out the NBC crew’s visit on Thursday by weighing in on the outreach that their department is doing in preparation for the eclipse.
Edwards and crew went live outside of the Watt Center starting at 4 a.m. on Friday, July 21 in order to be televised on the morning broadcast of NBC affiliates in each time zone of the United States. The morning broadcasts ended around 10 a.m. Then the crew went live again outside the Watt from 4-8 p.m.