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UW Solar Eclipse Expert to Visit Gillette

May 4, 2017
complete solar eclipse with corona of light around dark disc of moon
This is a photo of a total solar eclipse as observed from Africa by Tim Slater, Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair in Science Education at the University of Wyoming. (Tim Slater Photo)

How far would you travel to see a total eclipse of the sun?

Tim Slater, the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair in Science Education at the University of Wyoming, has traveled into deeply rural Africa to catch a glimpse of the disappearing sun. In May, he’s traveling across Wyoming to visit schools, campuses, public libraries and community centers to build awareness, generate excitement and help children, parents, teachers and community leaders to prepare for the upcoming total eclipse of the sun.

Slater is scheduled to speak about the nature of eclipses in Gillette Tuesday, May 16. He will visit students and teachers at Campbell County High School from 8-11 a.m.; speak with the public at the Campbell County Public Library from 4-5:30 p.m.; and lecture at the Campbell County School District Planetarium from 7-8 p.m. His trip is sponsored by the UW College of Education, the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium and local entities.

In his lectures, he describes how to safely observe the Aug. 21 eclipse of the sun and uses scientific digital visualization simulations to explain why scientists from all over the world are coming to Wyoming to observe this once-in-a-lifetime event. 

Visible from much of Wyoming and known as the Great North American Solar Eclipse, this rarely visible sky event occurs midday Aug. 21.

“For several hours, the moon will slowly cover and uncover the sun, causing skies to darken dramatically. In the middle of the event -- for just about two minutes -- the moon will completely block the sun, if you are standing in the right part of Wyoming,” says Slater, an internationally recognized expert on the teaching of astronomy.

man with a clear sphere in front of him on a table
Tim Slater, Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair in Science Education at the University of Wyoming, will speak about the nature of eclipses in Gillette May 16. (UW Photo).

Eclipses of the sun by the moon occur about twice each year. However, eclipses can only be observed from narrowly specific locations on Earth. UW astronomy Associate Professor Mike Pierce is coordinating nine scientific telescopes run by high school teachers and students spread across Wyoming in a collaborative effort to carefully monitor the sun continuously.

“It’s awe-inspiring,” Pierce says. “You see a part of the sun that is never seen. This will be something that people will tell their grandchildren about.”

This August, scientists and sky-watching enthusiasts from all over the world will make Wyoming their destination, resulting in full hotels, busy restaurants and overburdened highways across the state.  However, as Slater points out, “It might be difficult and time consuming for families to make their way to a prime viewing location, but it is totally worth the effort to briefly stand within the dark moon’s shadow once in your life.” 

For more information, contact Slater at (307) 314-9831 or

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