Preparing for an eclipse in small town america (1)

Preparing for an Eclipse in Small Town America
Posted on 08/20/2017
Preparing for an Eclipse in Small Town America

Preparing for an eclipse in small town America

For the past 24 years, Alamogordo Public Schools (APS) new Web and Digital Media Manager Jackie Diehl has been planning on witnessing a Total Solar Eclipse.  That’s a long stretch, but what’s even more interesting is that for the past 5 years, she’s been immersed in planning for the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017.

Diehl (a 1981 graduate of Alamogordo High School) has been working diligently on the planning, collaboration and outcome of the 2017 Glendo Total Solar Eclipse in Glendo, Wyoming. 

Glendo is a small rural town (population 205 at the last census).  It lies next to Glendo State Park and Glendo Reservoir just off of Interstate 25.  And its placement in the “line of totality” puts Glendo into the bulls eye for an estimated 600,000 folks that the Colorado Department of Transportation has determined will head to Wyoming.

“Our best guess – according to calculated “drivesheds” and “predictions” (by Michael Zeiler of Great American Eclipse.com) is that Glendo could have 75-111,000 visitors for the eclipse,” said Diehl. “That is huge for a town of 205.”

Diehl has a special connection to Glendo. Her parents began the construction of a summer home at Glendo State Park in 1963, the year she was born in Casper, WY. Although raised in Alamogordo, she’s always considered the residence in Wyoming “home.”  “I am beyond thrilled that I can offer my professional experience back to my home state of Wyoming,” she said.

The eclipse event is an important one for Diehl. It caps off 30 career years of astronomy and space science education outreach for Diehl, who (in April) came to work for the Alamogordo Public Schools after leaving the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Sunspot.

“The observatory is moving to Boulder (CO) and the honest truth was that Alamogordo has always been part of me,” said Diehl. “In the end, I knew I needed to come back to town and work on something that combined my love of education and my tech background. Alamogordo Public Schools fulfilled both of those criteria.” 

Diehl has been working as the NSO lead of a collaboration with the Town of Glendo and Glendo State Park for the past 5 years prepping for the event. She’s worked with national eclipse task force of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and countless others bringing the message of solar safety and solar science to the public.  “I’ve spend countless hours answering emails, questions and providing counsel to put on this eclipse,” she added. 

Diehl has been busy. Very busy. She’s coordinated activities, public talks and seminars from nearly 800 miles away from Glendo. She’s managed their public website and Facebook pages (at night) all while rebuilding and restructuring the APS School District website during the daylight hours. She’s also interviewed and has been published in publications such as Sky and Telescope magazine, the July issue of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space magazine and August issue of EOS (Earth and Space Science News), a publication of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).  Next week, she’ll field a Skype interview with the Weather Channel.

She’s taking with her a cadre of some of the best astronomers in the world with her to Wyoming. Solar scientists from the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, Apache Point Observatory, the International Dark Skies Association, the Planetary Sciences Institute and the National Center for Atmospheric Research are the featured speakers in Glendo. “It pays to have good friends in the business,” says Diehl.

She also brokered a grant to the Alamogordo Astronomy Club to provide free eclipse glasses through another of Diehl’s former employer’s, the New Mexico Museum of Space History.

“Alamogordo will only see about 70% of occultation of the Sun, says Diehl. But everyone will need eclipse glasses to view the eclipse,” she said.

The August 21st event will be the first time in 99 years that the path of totality will span the United States. According to the AAS Task Force, it is estimated that nearly 500,000,000 people will be able to see the eclipse in some form. But the best view will be in totality’s path. The sky will turn dark, the stars will shine and for 2 minutes and 29 seconds, Glendo will experience an ethereal experience.

“The experience is life changing I hear,” says Diehl. “I can rightfully say this eclipse has already changed my life in so very many ways.”

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