Are you ready for the Great American Eclipse?

UPDATE (8/17/17): As the date gets closer, please check out my “Procrastinator’s Guide to the Solar Eclipse” on Skepchick! 

I’m pretty darn excited. I’ve never seen a total solar eclipse, and I’m getting my first chance to do so, along with many, many residents of North America, on August 21st. I’m heading back to the St. Louis area to see my friends from my post-doc days, visit an elementary school with some cool activities, and chase away the clouds (I hope!) and see my first total solar eclipse. If you’re in the North and Central America, and even parts of South America, you’ll be able to see at least part of an eclipse, so get ready!

map of Aug 21, 2017 eclipse path
Credit: NASA

There are lots of LOTS of people who have been working hard to make sure that folks get to see the event safely. No, you should NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE SUN without proper equipment. That said, looking at the Sun during an eclipse is no more dangerous than looking at the Sun any other day. It’s just a concern because so many people want to look up! You don’t need expensive equipment, but solar viewers are highly recommended for looking up. The American Astronomical Society has a good primer on eye safety PLUS a page full of reputable vendors that will actually keep your eyes safe from the infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light from the Sun while you view. Obviously, there has been a rush on these things, but you can call your local library, since many have been stocked with cheap and free glasses just for this.

Don’t have time to get solar viewers? That’s okay! Indirect methods work as well. Science Friday has FIVE DIY ways to view the eclipse with little to no cost.

Going to the path of totality? Great! It’s going to be PACKED. I’m already a little nervous about it, as towns are expecting gridlock as people swarm to be in the path of totality. Take the advice of Angela Speck, astronomer at the University of Missouri who lives right on the path, and pack water, food, and emergency supplies when you head out on the 21st. Also? Make sure to gas up your vehicle the day before.

You all know how I love citizen science, where everyone can take part in data collection an analysis. This eclipse is providing many such opportunities for doing citizen science, including tracking atmospheric conditions, logging animal behavior, and investigating the ionosphere with radio waves.

As for me? I’m just going to watch and enjoy since it’s my first. I’ve been advised by several experienced eclipse watchers to just enjoy the experience. I took that advice to heart when I saw my first space shuttle launch, and I’m so glad that I did. Totality is super quick, just under two minutes depending on your location, so I plan to soak it all in!

If you’re not on the path of totality, you never really get full darkness, and the Moon will take its time to cross the solar disk. So, you can view at your leisure. I really love this visual by Vox where you can put in your zip code and see when the eclipse will take place, and at what percentage, wherever you are. So plan your day around it if you can!

Here are some great online resources for all your eclipse needs:

See you at totality!

Total Solar Eclipse
CC BY-SA 3.0 Luc Viatour/

A Noisy Science Friday

header-logo-2Quick update! I’ll be on Science Friday today talking about how you can observe a meteor shower with just a radio. Plus, we’ll discuss how to build your own Itty Bitty Radio Telescope! I’m traveling over to a studio in St. Louis this afternoon to be on the second hour of the program, so you can see if your local NPR station carries that half or find the live streaming of Science Friday at their main website. I’ve also written a blog for them with even more instructions on how to build these homemade radio devices.

Update: The audio is posted! Thanks for all the lovely comments, and I’m happy to answer questions you have about building these happy little devices.

Elsewhere on the Interwebz for June 2013

I write stuff sometimes. It’s been scattered as of late, but with year one of my post-doc under my belt, I’m starting to get the hang of things. Or, so I tell myself. As I work harder to put more blog-writing and video-making out, I thought it would help, at least my own sanity, to collect it all here in one place once in a while.

So, if you are curious what I’ve been doing, here’s the round-up of my writing and Hangout-ing from the last month…



(In some cases the originals are uploaded to my channel, but the slightly polished versions are uploaded to CosmoQuest’s channel, so I link to those if possible)

Okay, back to writing…


The Theorist vs. the X-Ray Astronomer

Usually blog wars make me sad. People get angry and cranky at each other, feelings are hurt, no one really wins or learns anything. I don’t like blog wars. Except, for this one. May I introduce to you,


Pictures courtesy of XSEDE, NICS, Bob Rood, and wherever the heck Dan got that fly.
Pictures courtesy of XSEDE, NICS, Bob Rood, and wherever the heck Dan got that “butterfly”.

So here is the backstory. My good friend, Dr. Jake Simon, writes some insightful stuff about science, skepticism, and politics over on his Facebook page. Realizing that his posts were generating quite a bit of discussion, he decided to try his hand at blogging, a move that I applaud.

However, there was a disturbance in the Force. My other good friend, Dr. Dan Wik, took exception to Jake’s blogging and started his own in rebuttal, threatening various things with a soldering iron that should probably not be mentioned and calling out Jake’s research methods. Jake defends his purely theoretical research, claiming that Dan has data-envy. Dan fires back with his thousands of x-ray photons, but Jake has a Kraken-sized super computer at his disposal. Most recently, Dan has rebutted with a picture of a fly on butter which makes me worry about his sanity a bit, but I suspect that this argument is far from over.

For those of you who may be sarcasm-challenged, these guys are best of buds and former roommates now separated by two post-doctoral positions several hundred miles apart. It’s a shame, really, when such a bromace is long-distance. And they used to bicker like this in person all the time. Though the feud may not be real, the science that they discuss IS very real. I think they’ve stumbled upon a very entertaining and novel way to introduce aspects of their scientific research to the public. I encourage following this blog war down whatever strange rabbit hole they go. You’ll be amused AND learn something along the way.


I’m there! If you are here as well, say hello to the pink-haired girl. If not, go here for where you can watch sessions online and follow us on Twitter and Google+ with #scio13.

Also, if you haven’t been paying attention on Google+ over the last 30ish hours or so, this happened. TL;DR: the science suggested users list so far only has one female scientist. We’re getting positive responses from Google and MASSIVELY positive responses from people who can recommend their favorite STEM women. Check it out. And I’ll also add that if you are a science communicator, Google+ is the place to be right now for great content and community.

More later!

SoCal in January at #AAS221

Note: when typing about the American Astronomical Society meeting, be careful that AAS does not autocorrect to ASS. Hilarity may ensue.

That said… it’s time to get back on a plane and head to Long Beach for the annual big meeting of US astronomers! Now, after the gargantuan AGU meeting I was at last month, this will probably seem quaint and provincial. But it is just about my favorite time of year. First of all, there is ALL THE ASTRONOMY that you could want to hear and talk about. I get to see all my old astronomy buddies from undergrad and now grad school, PLUS some of my LA friends are finally within striking distance. Pamela Gay, Scott Lewis, and I will be there representing CosmoQuest with posters and talks and some time spent at the giant NASA booth an awesomeness in the exhibit hall. But my hair is still pink so I probably won’t be that hard to find. Here’s a rough schedule of where I’ll be that I’ll update as needed. Unless otherwise noted, these events are for conference attendees only.


  • 5 – 7 PM – We’re going to try and make the K-12 Educator Reception at Naples Ballroom III at Renaissance Long Beach
  • 7 – 9 PM – Hopefully also we’ll make some of the opening reception at The Aquarium of the Pacific because that sounds fun


Update: My rough Monday plan #aas221: NASA booth at 9:30, 11:40, 2; Early Science with HERA at 10; JWST booth at 4; wander posters 5:30; funsies!



  • All day – Scott and I have our posters up (#248.02 and #248.03) but who knows when we’ll actually be there. We’ll put up a sign. Or something. Exhibit Hall A at Long Beach Convention Center
  • 10:50 AM – Pamela gives a talk about CosmoQuest at Astronomy Outreach for Non-traditional Audiences in Room 102B at Long Beach Convention Center
  • 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM – Education and Public Outreach Student Event in Exhibit Hall A at Long Beach Convention Center. I’ll probably be with STSci at NASA
  • 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM – NRAO Town Hall in Room 104C at Long Beach Convention Center
  • 9pm ish – Possible TweetUp being organized at Congregation Ale. All welcome if in the area!


  • 6 PM Knitter meetup! Details TBA
  • THE Party. Of course.


  • 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM – Hack Day at Beacon A (Downtown Hyatt Long Beach)

The usual contact info is @noisyastronomer on Twitter and hashtag #aas221 for the meeting in general.

See you there!


I’ll be in San Francisco!

The annual meeting of the American Geophysical Society is coming up next week, and I’ll be going for the first time and even co-chairing a session on Education and Citizen Science. If you are going to be at the meeting, we have our talks for that session Monday afternoon (301 Moscone South at 1:40PM) and posters on Friday afternoon. CosmoQuest will be bringing the big awesome booth as well, and we’re in the Exploration Station (aka Moscone Center Gateway Hall) so come say HELLO!

For those not there in meatspace, there is a “virtual meeting” site where they will be streaming keynote speakers and posting the posters. Since I will have a poster up on Tuesday relating to my thesis work with PAPER, I thought I’d post a link to mine for all of you who are in to that sort of thing. Take your time and browse around! This meeting covers all kinds of science goodness, from planetary geology to atmospheric physics to climate change. Also, we’ll be using the Twitter hashtag #AGU12.

(In case the ePoster thing doesn’t work, I’ve popped the pdf into the cloud as well.)

UPDATE: Apparently this meeting has a pretty good mobile app and some kind of social site as well… Friend me maybe?