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NASA ambassador to visit WP to offer demo on safe viewing of the sun


NASA ambassador Dr. David J. Thomas will be in West Plains from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 9 to discuss safe viewing of the sun ahead of the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse. Thomas will bring a solar-filtered telescope to set up on the lawn of the West Plains Civic Center, 110 St. Louis St., to allow people to see the sun safely in its usual state.

The viewing event will coincide with a reception inside the civic center to recognize and celebrate the efforts of the West Plains High School earth science class taught by Natalie Brazeal. The class is working on a series of eclipse-related projects, and the students are helping to promote West Plains activities which will be held in conjunction with the April total eclipse. The class will have art and science projects on display on the mezzanine at the civic center Tuesday through Nov. 15.

“We are happy that Mrs. Brazeal and her class have taken an interest in the eclipse and that they are working on projects to help inform the community about the special opportunity a total eclipse presents. We’re looking forward to seeing what they’re creating, and we’re pleased that Dr. Thomas is going to be here to be part of what promises to be a fun and educational afternoon,” said City of West Plains Tourism Manager Melissa Wharton.

Thomas is a native of Yakima, Wash. He says that he was almost 3 years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, and he has been interested in space exploration ever since. Broadly educated in biology and other sciences, Thomas has worked in industry, government and education.

Among his experiences, he worked at a small research company in Oregon that helped to develop the life support systems for the Space Station. He has also worked at summer programs at NASA's Ames and Kennedy Space Centers.

Currently, Dr. Thomas is a professor of biology at Lyon College, Batesville, Ark., where he is also the campus representative to the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium. He actively pursues research in astrobiology and is interested in all space missions that provide insight into the evolution and distribution of life in the Universe.

For more information about the April 2024 eclipse and the “Party in the Path” West Plains activities scheduled for April 5 through 8, follow @eclipsewestplains and @explorewestplains on Facebook.