‘Bad Astronomer’ Phil Plait headlines April 17 Solar Eclipse panel

Daniel Kennefick
Daniel Kennefick
Doug Biggs
Doug Biggs
Phil Plait
Phil Plait

KEARNEY – Celebrity physicist Phil Plait headlines the list of speakers at an upcoming panel discussion focused on the Aug. 21 solar eclipse.

Known as the “Bad Astronomer,” Plait is a well-known author and public speaker who has appeared on several popular radio, television and podcast programs. He is a celebrity in science circles, and his first book “Bad Astronomy” was a trade science hit.

Plait is one of three presenters at the Great American Solar Eclipse Panel Discussion at 5 p.m. April 17 at the Merryman Performing Arts Center in Kearney. The event – sponsored by the UNK chapter of Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society – is free and open to the public.

Plait debunks pseudoscience and clears up public misconceptions about astronomy. He will speak about general astronomy of the solar eclipse, what to expect during the event and what not to expect.

Doug Biggs, UNK Professor of History, will discuss the phenomenon of eclipses throughout history and their impact on people. Especially in the pre-modern period, people often interpreted comets, eclipses and other celestial phenomena as a sign of bad things to come.

Daniel Kennefick, University of Arkansas Associate Professor of Physics, will speak about the 1919 eclipse expedition organized by Arthur Stanley Eddington and Frank Watson Dyson, which tested the light-bending prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. His talk also includes current methods for testing light deflection predictions of general relativity.

“This event is intended to educate and build enthusiasm in the community and central Nebraska schools about the upcoming solar eclipse, with historical and scientific context provided by our expert panel,” said event organizer Allen Thomas, UNK assistant professor of chemistry. “Ultimately its goal is to promote science.”

Great American Solar Eclipse Panel Discussion
5 to 6:30 p.m.
Date: April 17
Place: Merryman Performing Arts Center, Kearney
Other: Free and open to the public
Sponsor: UNK Chapter of Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society


Writer: Todd Gottula, Director of Communications, 308.865.8454, gottulatm@unk.edu
Source: Allen Thomas, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, 308.865.8452, thomasaa@unk.edu