Clemson eclipse-chaser wows crowd at Pickens County Library
EASLEY, South Carolina – A recent appearance by Clemson University’s Donald Liebenberg at Pickens County Library drew a full house of more than 50 guests who listened intently to the internationally renowned scientist’s tales of his 60-plus years studying 26 total solar eclipses.
Liebenberg, who has been an adjunct professor in the College of Science’s department of physics and astronomy since 1996, has literally travelled around the world to enter the path of totality of solar eclipses. He has studied them from the ground, on ships in the middle of oceans, and in airplanes. He even watched one eclipse from the cabin of a Concorde supersonic airliner, where he was able to remain within the window of totality for an astounding 74 minutes.
During the June 22 event, Liebenberg was greeted by heavy applause when it was announced that he has spent almost three hours in totality, which surpasses anyone else on Earth. His hour-long talk included a detailed science lesson on how, when, where and why total solar eclipses occur. He also told delightful stories about his many adventures – and misadventures – as an eclipse-chaser.
“Each eclipse was different than every other,” Liebenberg said. “The one that stands out most in my mind was the 1973 eclipse that I studied aboard the Concorde, but each one was memorable in its own way.”
The upcoming Aug. 21, 2017 total solar eclipse that will streak across the United States from coast to coast and pass directly over Clemson University will mark Liebenberg’s 27th eclipse. He has also witnessed several other eclipses that were nearly – but not quite – in the path of totality.
Though the entire Continental U.S. will be able to witness portions of the eclipse, the total eclipse will only be visible on a narrow track stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. Clemson is located almost dead-center within this slender band. The eclipse will begin its pass over the Upstate at about 1:07 p.m. EDT and finish around 4:02 p.m. But the totality of the eclipse — the part that viewers will find the most fascinating — will begin around 2:37 p.m. and last less than three minutes.
Clemson University is finalizing plans to host its own eclipse viewing event that will include in-person appearances by a slew of College of Science experts and many other activities. Solar shades will be distributed free of charge. Anyone interested in attending the viewing party should go to clemson.edu/eclipse for more details. At this same location, you can check out “26 and Counting: The Liebenberg Eclipse Chronicles,” which describe the astronomer’s experiences first-hand.