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AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg to Receive NASA Medal

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 - 11:52

This announcement is adapted from an AAS press release:

We are thrilled to announce that AAS Press Officer Rick Fienberg is being honored with NASA’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal “for exceptional service to the nation in [his] tireless efforts for the public’s safe solar viewing of the 2017 total solar eclipse.”

Rick Fienberg in Oregon on 21 August 2017In the run-up to the “Great American” eclipse of 21 August 2017, Rick led the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force’s effort to develop and disseminate reliable eye-safety information and to promote the widespread distribution of safe solar-viewing glasses and filters. Working closely with NASA’s eclipse team as well as medical and technical experts in solar-eclipse eye safety, Rick produced safety messaging that won the endorsement of the leading US and Canadian ophthalmological and optometric societies. Those professional organizations, as well as the AAS, NASA, and the National Solar Observatory, all spoke with the same voice, ensuring that the public heard the same information from astronomers and eye doctors about what types of solar viewers and filters are safe and when and how to use them.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the AAS created a solar-eclipse website at Rick wrote and updated the site’s safety pages, which included lists of vendors selling solar viewers and filters certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products. With just weeks to go before the eclipse, reports surfaced of counterfeit and possibly dangerous eclipse glasses flooding the online marketplace. Rick took it upon himself to contact every vendor he could identify, examine their product certification and test reports, and update the AAS eclipse website daily — sometimes even hourly — to inform the public where they could acquire genuinely safe solar viewers. He became the “go to” source of accurate eclipse-safety information for print, broadcast, and online media, responding to countless requests for interviews right up to the day of the eclipse, when he was on vacation to experience the spectacle himself in central Oregon.

A NASA-funded study by the University of Michigan found that the eclipse had the most engagement of any event in recent American history, with at least 88% of US adults participating — more than 154 million in person and 60 million more via digital media. Remarkably, very few incidents of eclipse-related eye injury have been reported — a fact that NASA credits largely to Rick's efforts.

NASA’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal is awarded to an individual who is not a government employee for a significant specific achievement or substantial improvement in operations, efficiency, service, financial savings, science, or technology that contributes to the agency’s mission. Rick will receive the medal at a ceremony held at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, on 24 October 2018.

Hua Liu
Director of Communications and Marketing
American Astronomical Society (AAS)
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