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THE SUN KING: Nahant’s Conlin taking aim at eclipse

Then Sun King

Salem State University physics professor Luke Conlin stands on the roof of Meier Hall where he will be hosting a solar eclipse viewing party on Monday.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

The Sun King

Meier Hall at Salem State University where physics professor Luke Conlin will be hosting a solar eclipse viewing party on the roof on Monday.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

The Sun King

Salem State University physics professor Luke Conlin sits on the roof of Meier Hall where he will be hosting a solar eclipse viewing party on Monday.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

SALEM — The last time a total solar eclipse occurred in the U.S. was in 1979, when Nahant’s Luke Conlin was only a year old.

“Maybe that’s why I enjoy space so much,” he said.

The Salem State University Physics professor will be hosting an eclipse viewing, open to the public, on top of Meier Hall on Monday when the solar eclipse is set to begin.

“An eclipse takes place when one heavenly body such as a moon or planet moves into the shadow of another heavenly body. There are two types of eclipses on Earth: an eclipse of the moon and an eclipse of the sun,” as defined by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Conlin said we will be seeing a partial eclipse where the moon will cover the sun for just a few hours, causing everything to get a little dark.

The eclipse will occur at about 1:30 p.m., EDT and will peak around 2:45 p.m., according to Conlin. It should be over by about 4 p.m.

An eclipse usually occurs about two times a year, said Conlin, however, we cannot see it, making this one special for those invested in an out-of-this-world experience.

Not to be confused with a total eclipse, the moon will only cover about 60 percent of the sun.

Preparing to see the celestial magic, the 39-year-old decided to host the party at Salem State University due to discussion among interested students, but said the greatest vantage point will be at High Rock Tower in Lynn.

“It’s one of the highest place on the North Shore,” he said.

The Tufts University graduate, who studied astrophysics, said there are certain safety precautions that must be taken in order to view the eclipse.

“You can’t look directly at the sun or you will hurt your eyes,” he said. “During the partial eclipse, the sun is still 40 percent uncovered, meaning it is still bright for your eyes.

He said specific viewing glasses must be used to look into the sky. You can also build an eclipse viewing station with two thin pieces of cardboard.

Viewing glasses can be purchased online or in stores such as Walmart, Best Buy, Toys “R” Us, and many more retail chains, according to eclipse.aas.org.

Conlin purchased his MEADE glasses online through Walmart, but warned those interested in buying a pair, especially last minute, to check the quality and to avoid being trapped into buying a knockoff pair for a cheap price.

“It isn’t worth ruining your eyes,” he said.

Not only an excitement for those observing the phenomenon, the partial eclipse will also allow for specific testing to be done.

During the partial eclipse, NASA will be conducting the Eclipse Ballooning Project, where roughly 75 balloons will be sent high above the Earth with small samples of bacteria. The project will allow scientists to analyze how bacteria behaves to help researchers prepare for a mission to Mars, according to NASA.

The Nahant Public Library will be showing a NASA live stream of the eclipse from 2:15-3:15 p.m.

To meet the unpredictable demand of visitors, Conlin will have some viewing glasses during the Salem State University viewing, as well as a pinhole camera-making station for those interested in creating their own eclipse viewer.

Having been only a year old when the last viewable eclipse occurred, Conlin appreciates what is set to happen and has a personal theory that different kinds of space activity, like an eclipse, provides perspective to people on just how big the universe is.

“Moments like this give people a chance to think of the bigger picture,” he said. “It’s a big universe out there and we forget by getting wrapped up in ourselves sometimes. It becomes an opportunity to see our part in the picture.”

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