Southeast Students’ Citizen CATE Work Chronicled in U.S. Congressional Record

The Citizen Continental American Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) project to observe the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, in which Southeast Missouri State University participated, was recently recognized during a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

The project was documented as a model example of a citizen program doing impactful and educational STEM activities related to the Great American Solar Eclipse. Matt Penn, an astronomer with the National Solar Observatory, testified before the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and Subcommittee on Space, and his full report, listing Southeast as a participant, now is included in the U.S. Congressional Record.

A group of Southeast students led by Dr. Peggy Hill, Southeast professor of physics, and Dr. Mike Rodgers, Southeast professor of chemistry, participated in the project as one of 68 citizen-astronomer groups located along the path of totality across the United States to take images and video of the inner solar corona. The team was located at the Perryville (Missouri) Municipal Airport, where totality lasted two minutes and 40 seconds.

Southeast student Taylor Shivelbine taught community members the science behind the solar eclipse.

“It was an amazing opportunity for the University and our students to be a part of this project and to have everyone’s hard work receive national recognition,” Hill said.

Their work will be combined with data from the other sites and stitched together into one video. The 90-minute video will provide scientists and solar enthusiasts the opportunity to see the sun in a whole new light. Some of these studies will include examining the corona’s polar plumes, magnetic field, flares and coronal mass ejections, and magnetic instabilities. The data collected will help to better understand these components and the relationship between the earth’s magnetic field and the solar atmosphere.

The Southeast team is looking forward to seeing the full video, which should be ready in another six months, Hill said.

“We were very fortunate, we got clear data and everything the students did was perfect,” she said. “They knew what they were doing, and had complete confidence in themselves.”

The Southeast team observed the sun safely through a solar viewing funnel projector fitted on an additional telescope.

The Southeast team included Jordan Duncan, a senior physics major with a mathematics minor from Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Sam Fincher, a senior physics major with a mathematics minor from Pacific, Missouri; Sammy Hasler, a junior biology major with physics and mathematics minors from Waterloo, Illinois; Tyler Howard, a senior double major in physics and engineering physics with a mathematics minor from Bartlett, Tennessee; Ben Nielson a senior double major in physics and engineering physics with a mathematics minor from Sikeson, Missouri; and Taylor Shivelbine, a senior physics education major from Cape Girardeau.

For more information about the “The Great American Eclipse: To Totality and Beyond” hearing, visit https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/joint-subcommittee-research-and-technology-and-subcommittee-space-hearing-great.

For more information about the Citizen CATE project, visit http://citizencate.org.