A team of Williams College faculty and students is preparing to scientifically observe the total eclipse of the Sun that will sweep across the far side of Earth on March 29. Six undergraduates are joining Jay Pasachoff, Bryce Babcock, and Steven Souza of the astronomy and physics departments, who have worked together on a series of expeditions, most recently to study Pluto and its moon Charon.
The expedition is to Kastellorizo, a small island east of Rhodes in the Greek Dodecanese. Aside from Cyprus, it is the farthest eastern point of Europe, so many eclipse watchers are expected to travel there. The Williams group will be on site a week in advance to set up, test, and align its nearly ton of equipment. They are working closely with Professor John Seiradakis of the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, continuing a collaboration begun with joint observations there of the 2004 transit of Venus.
Pasachoff, chair of the International Astronomical Unions Working Group on Eclipses, will be observing his 42nd solar eclipse. He is Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy and director of the Hopkins Observatory at Williams. Babcock is coordinator of science facilities and staff physicist; Souza is instructor of astronomy and observatory supervisor. They last observed an eclipse in 2002 in Australia. The total solar eclipses since then have been visible only from Antarctica in 2003 and the mid-Pacific in 2005, preventing the use of complex equipment.
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