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IU prepares for once-in-a-lifetime astronomical phenomenon

Written by Whitten - the blog of Pamela Whitten, President, Indiana University

The biggest celestial event in centuries—the total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024—will darken the sky while providing Indiana University the opportunity to shine! IU’s campuses in Bloomington, Indianapolis, Kokomo, Richmond, and Columbus are in the path of totality—part of the limited geographic region where the moon will completely eclipse the sun for up to roughly four minutes—uniquely positioning our campuses to provide the full eclipse experience.

In preparation for this extraordinary astronomical phenomenon, IU is planning an out-of-this-world experience to help Hoosiers celebrate and learn from this truly once-in-a-lifetime event, which promises to be one of the largest tourist events in our state’s history. 

Eclipse viewers in Bloomington will be treated to a star-studded celebration. Events begin at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium, featuring a musical performance, a spoken-word performance from acclaimed actor William Shatner of “Star Trek” fame, and a guest appearance by Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut.

Our IU campus in Indianapolis is partnering with Visit Indy on a weekend-long series of festivities, beginning April 5, at White River State Park and elsewhere across the city. And with special events like Dark as Dusk at IU Kokomo and IU South Bend’s “Meet the Stars” series, our regional campuses are building excitement for the eclipse among Hoosiers across our state.

To ensure that as many of our IU community members as possible can experience the eclipse, IU is canceling all in-person classes across the state on April 8.

Meanwhile, IU’s stellar faculty in astronomy, the arts, optometry, physics, and more, including Distinguished Professor Catherine Pilachowski, are serving as critical voices to help Hoosiers not only understand and learn from the eclipse but stay safe while viewing it. IU is also one of just three regional coordinating sites for Citizen CATE, a continent-spanning project funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA. Coordinating sites will capture a nearly hourlong continuous video of the sun during totality, helping researchers at IU and beyond unravel the mysteries of the sun’s super-hot outer layer, or corona. 

Finally, with funding from the Simons Foundation, the IU Center for Rural Engagement is helping IU’s surrounding communities plan eclipse-related programs. Thirty rural organizations across 22 Indiana counties have received microgrants of up to $2,000 to host arts, educational, and cultural activities through this special IU-led initiative. 

Throughout the spring semester, our Eclipse IU website will serve as the primary home for eclipse information, including how to participate in the viewings and events across our campuses. 

The countdown has begun, and our mission is clear: To learn and have fun like only IU knows how, showcase the expertise of our world-renowned faculty, and make sure no Hoosier is left in the dark for this historic solar event!  

Pamela Whitten

Indiana University  

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