Eyes turn skyward for solar eclipse

The April 8 solar eclipse photographed by Glen Ridge High School Photography Teacher Alyssa Herrera

This past Monday, April 8, like many students in parts of the United States, those at Glen Ridge High School had the opportunity to view the solar eclipse.

They did this at Hurrell Field with special eyewear provided by the school, which had purchased 1,000 of these glasses with a grant from the local teachers union.

But for Corina Drozdowski, a computer science, robotics and web design teacher, who coordinated the eclipse viewing, the event had added significance. “Droz,” as she is known, was a National Science Foundation participant in a study at Montclair State University last summer. Her goal at MSU was to determine the effects of the sun on our computerized systems, she said, and to increase awareness of solar weather and its impact on technology. She will be a NSF participant for two more years.

“At MSU, we did research on climate and learned a little bit about solar weather,” she said “For instance, its effects on cell phones, computers and GPS satellites.”

The sun is always giving off solar particles, she said, most of which the earth repels with its protective heliosphere and magnetosphere. When a solar flare occurs, which is a brief, highly charged electromagnetic eruption, satellites alert scientists keen on determining how it disrupts earth-bound technology. The NSF, she said, wants educators to understand that solar weather is a crucial topic and should be taught to middle and high school students.

“As a robotic teacher, a satellite is a type of robot,” she said. “That is my connection to solar weather. Through the Glen Ridge Educational Association, we’re doing a ‘Pride’ event. Principal John Lawlor thought it would be a great teaching moment. The entire high school will be at Hurrell Field as part of an evacuation exercise.”

“Pride” events are funded by the GREA with the purpose to draw the schools and community together. A “Pride” grant purchased the protective glasses for the students and GRHS science teachers are putting together lessons.

“I was part of the ‘Pride’ committee and chose the solar eclipse for our spring event,” she said.

teacher Corina Drozdowski, junior Lillian Wu and freshmen Isabella Vitale and Cecelia ‘CC’ Merrill. The four gathered information during the eclipse to determine its behavioral effect on animals.

Drozdowski said three GRHS students assisted her with her work for the International STEM Conference, held in Princeton, in March. They are freshmen Cecilia Merrill and Isabella Vitale, and junior Lillian Wu.

A National Institute of Health study, during the 2017 total eclipse, observed the behavior of 17 mammals at the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, in Columbia, S.C. According to the study, 13 of the 18 mammals exhibited behavior relating to nighttime. However, five of the mammals exhibited anxiety: baboons, gorillas, giraffes, flamingoes and lorikeets, which is a parrot. The next total solar eclipse, visible in the U.S., will be Aug. 23, 2044.

What is unique about a solar eclipse is that it allows the outer atmosphere of the sun or corona to be visible because the moon, in passing between the earth and the sun, temporarily blocks the much brighter sun.

“Cecelia, Lillian and Isabella are helping with an audio project for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration,” Drozdowski said. “It’s a Citizen’s Science Project called ‘Eclipse Soundscapes.’ It’s about how the sudden darkness and drop in temperature affects animals around us.bBecause of the interest in solar weather, we will be recording the air temperature and listening.”