[Greater-Baltimore] eclipse

Jerry Price techguy410 at gmail.com
Wed Aug 9 11:24:32 UTC 2017

Some of you may find this to be of interest:

On August 21, 2017, millions of people will view a total solar eclipse
as it passes through the United States. However, for the visually
impaired, or others
who are unable to see the eclipse with their own eyes, the Eclipse
Soundscapes Project delivers a multisensory experience of this
exciting celestial event.
The project, from NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium, will
include audio descriptions of the eclipse in real time, recordings of
the changing environmental
sounds during the eclipse, and an interactive “rumble map” app that
will allow users to visualize the eclipse through touch.


The idea for Eclipse Soundscapes came from Dr. Henry “Trae” Winter, a
solar astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian CfA with a penchant
for scientific
engagement projects. Winter noticed a deficit in accessibility while
building a solar wall exhibits for museums. He observed that some
“accessible” exhibits
merely included the item’s name in braille, while other exhibits —
including his own — had no accessibility component at all. Winter
began to brainstorm
an astrophysics project that would use a multisensory approach to
engage a larger percentage of the population, including the visually
impaired community.
The “Great American Eclipse” of August 2017 seemed like the perfect opportunity.


For individuals who cannot see, hearing is an ideal way to experience
the eclipse, since soundscapes change dramatically as the Moon passes
between the
Earth and Sun. Due to the change in light, nocturnal animals stir into
action, while diurnal animals settle. As the Sun’s light re-emerges,
it often triggers
a “false dawn chorus.”

Eclipse Soundscapes is working with organizations such as the National
Park Service (NPS), Science Friday, and Brigham Young University,
Idaho, to record
these auditory fluctuations. Many of these recordings will use
microphone arrays that simulate human hearing, creating a sensation of
3D sound for listeners.

Of course, these recordings will not be available until after the
eclipse, but visually impaired individuals can enjoy the August 21
event with the Eclipse
Soundscapes app, which will include a narration of the eclipse’s
progression in real time using specialized imagery description
techniques developed by
WGBH’s National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM). Eclipse
Soundscapes’ app will geolocate the user and start the narration to
align with the planetary
movements as they occur.


The Eclipse Soundscapes’ app also features an interactive “rumble
map,” which uses a smartphone’s touch screen and vibrational feedback
to demonstrate
the physical qualities of an eclipse. The rumble map displays photos
of the eclipse at various stages. When users touch the image, the app
reads the greyscale
value of a pixel underneath their finger, and vibrates the phone with
a strength relative to the brightness of the section. As users move
their fingers
around the Sun, their smartphone will vibrate more. As they move their
fingers into the dark spaces blocked by the Moon, the vibration will
diminish and


With these tools, the Eclipse Soundscapes team hopes to provide
visually impaired individuals with a variety of resources to explore
the eclipse on their
own — and maybe even learn something that their sighted peers could
not through visuals alone.

Although the August 21 eclipse will only last for a few hours from
beginning to end, the information collected through the Eclipse
Soundscapes app will
live on as an open source primary documentation of this historic
event, and as a model for making science accessible for all. The team
aims to continue
their efforts for upcoming total solar eclipses, including one in
Chile in 2019, and another that will visit the central United States
in April 2024.


Thanks to our partners
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
National Park Service

Contact us:
info at eclipsesoundscapes.org
Eclipse Soundscapes Project
c/o Henry "Trae" Winter, MS 58
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

More information about the Greater-Baltimore mailing list