Sallyportal: Madly Blogging Reed



Tyler Nordgren ’91 Sees the Solar Eclipse in its Totality

Sun Moon Earth book cover

Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses from Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets

Totality. When the darkness comes, Tyler Nordgren ’91 will be ready.

A passionate advocate for astronomy and stargazing, Tyler is the author of Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses From Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets, and he is is going above and beyond to celebrate the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. He has created a series of posters that educate the public about this momentous event, and he worked with Rainbow Symphony to design eclipse glasses for the National Park Service (NPS).

Tyler is a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Redlands and a former board member of the International Dark Sky Association. He works extensively with the NPS on night-sky preservation and education and has led astronomy-themed trips to Italy (studying Galileo), rafting the Grand Canyon, and to Alaska for the northern lights and an occasional eclipse. This eclipse will pass through 14 states, from Oregon to South Carolina, the first since 1979 to pass over mainland United States. Tyler saw the total eclipse in Europe in 1999, and tells The Guardian that "nothing compares to the multisensory experience a solar eclipse offers." Also, he comments on how this phenomenon has been perceived throughout history in an OPB video.

How a Galaxy Evolves

Humankind’s view of the cosmos, however magnificent, is fundamentally static. Astrophysicists know that distant astronomical objects (stars, nebulae, galaxies) are in constant motion, but this is invisible to human eyes because it takes place on a timescale which is unimaginably vast. In fact, except for the moon, the planets, and the occasional comet, the night sky has looked essentially the same for the entire history of human civilization.

Recently astrophysicists have used computers to speed things up. For my thesis with  Johnny Powell [physics 1987–], I wrote a computer program to simulate the evolution of a typical spiral galaxy. The central premise is that by calculating the gravitational forces acting on a relatively small number of stars, we can simulate the evolution of a real galaxy, which consists of hundreds of billions of stars.