Solar Eclipse Classes

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COLUMBIA - The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute started its solar eclipse viewing classes Tuesday for 75 attendees.

"I knew it was going to be a big class because it's a unique event and the interest is very high. So, I am happy to have them," said the instructor for the "Techniques for Observing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse," Val Germann.

The class will meet four more times in the next three weeks. Germann said these classes are good to inform people on what to look for during the eclipse and how to best view it. The Columbia area will experience totality for the solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

"So a little research, so that you know the sequence of events, and are prepared for them, will make it a lot better event than it's even going to be. It's going to be amazing no matter what. But you can actually enhance the experience if you know a little bit more about it," he said.

Despite the institute's goal to keep intellectual health and improve interactions within the population, classes like these mean more than just knowledge for some students.

"I also have a great granddaughter, who will have her fifth birthday within a couple of days from when the eclipse comes. And she is up in Minnesota. So, I've been sending what I know about it up to her parents to invite them down so she can spend her fifth birthday here in Columbia and observe it," Joanne Heisler, a class attendee, said. "So she can remember it, because I am sure it will be something she will remember her whole life."

Heisler said she is insisting on learning and convincing her family members to come to Columbia to watch the eclipse because of a personal experience that has never left her memory.

"When I was a very young child, my father waking me up in the middle of the night to see an eclipse of the moon. And how I still remember that, and how excited I was about that. It not only informs me, but it helps me reminisce about things I knew, things I used to know," she said.

During the lecture, Germann gave out his homemade strategy for viewing the eclipse with his family. 

"Using a small telescope to aim the sun into a light box, basically, and I made this at home. It's a frame of wood about six inches deep with white foam core across the back, and so it shadows, the wood shadows the foam core. And you project it, the image of the sun, into that box, and you can observe it from a distance. And in fact, a number of people can observe it at the same time," he said. "And it's perfectly safe because they are observing a projected image that cannot possibly be a problem."

The institute offers year around classes for people 50 years old or over. MU Conference Office Director Jewel Coffman said in an email that people can still register for the summer session.

"Registration is still available; however, some classes are closed, having reached their enrollment capacity," she said.

Heisler said because of the first class, she decided her eclipse viewing location.

"I think my own backyard will probably have a very good view of it. Particularly since it's going to be high in the sky - that was something I learned today - that it's nice to know that it's going to be very high in the sky," she said.