NASA sun experts to visit Sno-Isle Libraries ahead of August total solar eclipse

Sno-Isle Libraries Teen Librarian Kathy Smargiassi wears eclipse glasses and looks at the sun.

You haven’t really seen the sun until you look at it through Roger and Linda Kennedy’s eyes.

The New Mexico-based couple travels the country for NASA, presenting free classes about the science of the sun. The Kennedys are bringing their telescopes and other equipment to 16 Sno-Isle Libraries community libraries, including Edmonds, Lynnwood and Brier (details below), starting July 23 and ending on Aug. 21, the day of a rare total solar eclipse that will be visible in Washington.

“The classes are a free-flowing observational, Q-and-A sort of thing,” Roger Kennedy said. “We set up two telescopes and a spectroscope and a couple of tables with information about the sun. We talk about the sun, how we use light in science and how the spectrum comes into play.”

The Kennedys will bring will bring free eclipse glasses that make it safe to look at the sun for participants at each class. Attendance is free.

Both retired, Roger from teaching science and Linda as a librarian, the Kennedys are members of many l astronomy groups including the Albuquerque Astronomical Society, the New Mexico chapter of the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project and Timmy Telescope Solar Astronomy Outreach.

“We go around the country now doing solar education events,” Roger Kennedy said by phone from his home. “It just happens that we have an eclipse this year.”

The Kennedys were already sharing their love of the stars when NASA called.

“A couple of years back, the Goddard Flight Center contacted us and said their outreach funding was getting repurposed,” Kennedy said. “They asked if we’d like to partner with them and you don’t say no when NASA calls.”

Since then, more funding has come from nearby Sandia National Laboratories and other grants to buy additional equipment for classes.

“Most people look through the telescope, see a red ball and say ‘What’s that?’” Kennedy said. “I tell them that’s hydrogen, then we explain the phenomenon of the sun; most people have never really seen the sun.”

Kennedy said one event in Albuquerque drew a young couple with French accents. “They looked through the telescope and I start my spiel. They say ‘We know all about that, but we’ve never seen the sun before,’” Kennedy said. “Turned out they were from CERN, the particle accelerator in France. Two Ph.Ds in town talking at Sandia about subatomic particles and there I am talking about a big red ball.”

Doctorate or not, Kennedy said that after looking through the telescopes, one of the favorite activities of the classes is making bracelets of beads sensitive to ultraviolet light.

“We make the bracelets indoors and the beads don’t change colors,” he said. “Then we go outdoors and light that is invisible to us makes them change.”

The Kennedys’ connection to Sno-Isle Libraries comes through Stanwood Library Librarian Vicky Beatty.

“I worked with Linda Kennedy at the library in Albuquerque,” Beatty said. “We signed them up in 2014 and it was just fantastic. This year I got in touch an asked if they were interested again. They said, ‘Oh, sure, how many can we sign up for?’ They are truly incredible people.”

Fun with the sun

Sno-Isle Libraries has created a solar eclipse resource page ( with information about the coming solar eclipse, the sun and other astronomical tidbits. Here are the eclipse classes scheduled at Lynnwood and Edmonds libraries as well as other nearby libraries:

Lynnwood Library
Sunday, July 23, 1 p.m.

Mukilteo Library
Monday, July 31, 2 p.m.

Edmonds Library
Monday, Aug. 7, 1 p.m.

Brier Library
Friday, Aug. 11, 1 p.m.

Mill Creek Library
Sunday, Aug. 13, 1 p.m.

Mariner Library
Monday, Aug. 21, 10 a.m.
*Museum of Flight, “Suited for Space” at 10:30 a.m., registration required

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