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2017 Total Solar Eclipse Will Bathe Benedictine Campus in Darkness
Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., is nearly perfectly situated for the celestial event of the century, the total eclipse of the sun on August 21, 2017. As it celebrates a Century of Science, the college is already making plans that include the construction of an observatory, lectures from two Vatican Observatory astronomers, use of the 2,800-seat football stadium for comfortable viewing, distribution of free solar glasses, solar filtered telescopes and an “astronomy-themed” music concert.
Total solar eclipses have rarely ever touched the Central United States. The last time a total solar eclipse passed through the heart of the country was June 8, 1918. In the past 100 years, total solar eclipses have just clipped the continental U.S.
“This is literally the event of the century, and it is falling right in our laps,” said Dr. Ryan Maderak, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “The beginning of the eclipse should be at 11:40 a.m., it will reach totality (total coverage) at 1:07 p.m. and we will have about 2 minutes and 18 seconds of total darkness.”
The college plans a two-day celebration that will include presentations from two astronomers from the Vatican Observatory. Fr. Christopher J. Corbally, S.J., President of the National Committee for Astronomy in the Vatican City State for the International Astronomical Union, will offer a lecture on the history of astronomy and the church. Fr. Paul Gabor, S.J., Vice Director of the Vatican Observatory Research Group, will give more of a science lecture on the solar eclipse and astronomy.
Maderak said all the department’s telescopes will be rigged for viewing the sun and will be available for the general public to pass by and get an “up close” view.
In addition, the college has announced the construction of a state-of-the-art roll-off observatory on a high ridge west of the campus. The teaching observatory is a significant addition to the college’s Astronomy Department and the timing is perfect. It will point four telescopes to the heavens this fall, just in time for the eclipse.
Sufficiently isolated to minimize light and heat interference, but close enough to be readily accessible, the new facility has been funded primarily with donations from an alumni couple, Joe and Frankee Daglen. In their honor, the new building will be known as the Daglen Observatory.
The roll-off design allows for the placement of as many as four telescopes, rather than the single telescope often found in a traditional domed observatory. The 18’ X 40’ facility includes a 288 square foot control room with a fixed roof, plus the observation area. An additional support structure, onto which the roof rolls, will stand next to the building.
In August of 2016, Benedictine College began a year-long celebration of a Century of Science, which will conclude with this spectacular celestial event. The college offered its first science degrees in 1916 and is looking to the next century of science with the renovation and expansion of Westerman Hall, the science and engineering building. [Click here for the Century of Science main page.]
From the beginning, the college aimed for the highest possible standards in the sciences, sending monks to the best universities to offer students the best opportunities. Fifty years later, in the mid-1960s, a new state-of-the-art Science Hall put the sciences front and center on campus again. One of the first Biology graduates who took classes in the new building was Wangari Maathai, ’64, who would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.