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AAS Awards 31 Mini-Grants for August 2017 Solar Eclipse

16 Mar 2017

Thirty-one outreach projects in 21 states are receiving mini-grants up to $5,000 from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) to prepare the public for this year’s most anticipated celestial spectacle: the first total eclipse of the Sun to touch the US mainland since 1979 and the first to span the continent since 1918. This nationwide educational effort is funded by the National Science Foundation and administered by the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force. It is specifically aimed at reaching members of under-represented groups, including women/girls, ethnic minorities, and people with physical and/or mental disabilities, who often don’t imagine themselves in science careers or who think that science is not for them.

On Monday, 21 August 2017, a total solar eclipse will darken a roughly 70-mile-wide swath of the US from Oregon (in the late morning) to South Carolina (in the mid-afternoon). Millions of citizens and visitors will have a chance to see the ethereal solar corona — the Sun’s wispy outer atmosphere — and experience “darkness at midday.” Outside this narrow path of totality, all of North America will have a partial solar eclipse. The event is being called the Great American Eclipse or All-American Eclipse because the Moon’s dark shadow crosses the entire continental US but touches no other country as it travels 8,600 miles across Earth’s surface.

The AAS mini-grants program is named for Julena Steinheider Duncombe (1911-2003), an astronomer and educator who started the country’s first school-lunch program for underprivileged children. For many years she published eclipse predictions for the US Naval Observatory. Several towns in Nebraska where she taught school will be in the path of the Moon’s shadow on 21 August 2017.

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The following organizations/institutions and principal investigators (PIs) are receiving Julena Steinheider Duncombe mini-grants from the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force:

  • Alfred Box of Books Library, Alfred, NY; PI: Melanie A. Miller
  • Andover Public Library, Andover, OH; PI: Susan Elizabeth Hill
  • Astronomical Society of the Pacific, San Francisco, CA; PI: Vivian White
  • Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, TN; PI: J. Allyn Smith
  • Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL; PI: Scott E. Ishman
  • College of Charleston, Charleston, SC; PI: Terry Richardson
  • College of Idaho, Caldwell, ID; PI: Kathryn E. Devine
  • Danville Science Center, Danville, VA; PI: Brian C. Buchanan
  • F&L Organizational Services, New Orleans, LA; PI: Sean Tate
  • Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Fort Worth, TX; PI: Sarah Twidal
  • Friends of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC; PI: Kari Wouk
  • Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, Louisville, KY; PI: Carolyn Cromer
  • Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, Townsend, TN; PI: Jennifer L. Jones
  • Heyward Gibbes Middle School, Columbia, SC; PI: Lillie Hardison
  • Hummel Planetarium at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY; PI: Aida V. Bermudez
  • Indigenous Education Institute, Friday Harbor, WA; PI: Nancy Maryboy
  • Kearney Public Schools Foundation, Kearney, NE; PI: Lisa Parish
  • L. C. Bates Museum at Good Will-Hinckley, Hinckley, ME; PI: Deborah Staber
  • Macon County Public Library, Franklin, NC; PI: Cristen A. Dando
  • Maryland Academy of Sciences, Maryland Science Center, Baltimore, MD; PI: Jim O’Leary
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead Planetarium, Moorhead, MN; PI: Sara Kay Schultz
  • Science Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, VA; PI: Hannah Weiss
  • Science Outreach Center at St. Francis University, Loretto, PA; PI: Lanika Ruzhitskaya
  • Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO; PI: Tamela D. Randolph
  • St. Louis Astronomical Society, St. Louis, MO; PI: Richard W. Heuermann
  • Truman State University, Kirksville, MO; PI: Vayujeet M. Gokhale
  • University of Missouri, Columbia, MO; PI: Candace Galen
  • University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL; PI: John William Hewitt
  • University of Toledo Ritter Planetarium, Toledo, OH; PI: Michael C. Cushing
  • WCQS 88.1 FM, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Asheville, NC; PI: Helen Chickering
  • Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, Laramie, WY; PI: Shawna M. McBride

These projects will engage the public via eclipse-related education and outreach activities in a wide variety of venues, including science museums, planetariums, libraries, schools, afterschool programs, and college campuses — some in the path of totality, others in places where the eclipse will only be partial. Brief descriptions of the funded projects, and email links to the principal investigators, may be found on the AAS solar-eclipse website.

“There is clearly a lot of interest in this summer’s solar eclipse,” says task-force co-chair Angela Speck (University of Missouri, Columbia). “We received 153 mini-grant proposals representing a remarkable amount of creativity and enthusiasm. I wish we could have funded more of them, but the 31 projects we did fund will help spread ‘eclipse fever’ around the country and will undoubtedly motivate significant numbers of underserved youth to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116

Mike Kentrianakis
Project Manager, AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force
+1 917-770-1784

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 8,000) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.