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Renowned Astronomer Jill Tarter Says Eclipse Reminds Us We're Earthlings

SETI Institute

An award-winning astronomer famous for her search for extraterrestrial intelligence spoke to a sold out audience at the Lander high school the night before the eclipse. Author Carl Sagan based the central character of his novel Contact on Jill Tarter, and the book was also made into a movie with Jodie Foster. Tarter is a fellow at the SETI Institute (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence). 

Tarter said she’s seen two other total solar eclipses in her life but she chose to see this one in Wyoming because her daughter works for the National Outdoor Leadership School or NOLS in Lander. Tarter’s talk was called “The Solar Eclipse, The Universe and You.”

She said this eclipse was a great way to help Americans see themselves through a broader perspective as earthlings.

“A solar eclipse will change your perspective,” Tarter said. “It just causes you to step back and look at things from a different place. If people can open their minds a bit, what I call a cosmic perspective, it helps to trivialize the differences among people.”

Tarter said she was thrilled to see Americans embrace the eclipse.

“It seemed to me the opportunity of an eclipse which is such a powerful natural occurrence to be able to interact with,” said Tarter. “It gives an opportunity to talk about the fact that 500 million years from now we won’t have any total solar eclipses anymore. The moon will have moved too far away from the earth.”

Tarter said while 500 million years might seem like a lot, it isn’t from the point of view of the universe and that’s a perspective humanity would benefit from looking through.

A complete interview with Jill Tarter will air on Open Spaces on Friday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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