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Using Sound to Make Solar Eclipses Accessible for the Blind and Low-vision Community

Presentation #201.01 in the session Special Session: Accessibility and Inclusivity in the Dynamics Community.

Published onJul 01, 2023
Using Sound to Make Solar Eclipses Accessible for the Blind and Low-vision Community

In October 2023, an annular eclipse will sweep across the Americas from Oregon — through Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas — down to Brazil. Just six months later, in April 2024, a total solar eclipse will cross North America from Mexico and Texas up to Maine and Newfoundland. As astronomers and educators prepare for these spectacular events, accessibility should be at the front of our minds and not an afterthought. The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 was a spectacular event that drew millions of people’s attention. The upcoming eclipses will do the same and we have time to fully prepare. We have developed a sonification device, called LightSound, that converts light intensity to sound using Arduino technology. About the size of a smartphone, it can be used by an individual or it can be connected to a speaker for a large group (or entire event) to experience the dimming of sunlight during the eclipse through sound. These devices can also be connected to a computer to collect the data to be analyzed and/or sonified at a later date. LightSound is a completely open source resource with instructions online for building and using it in English, Spanish, and soon to be French. We have also provided the source code online for running the device, along with Python plotting tools, and developed workshops geared toward teaching individuals how to build and use the devices. With support from AAS and IAU grants, the LightSound project is building device to be donated to communities, museums, National Parks, schools, etc. that will be hosting solar eclipse events.

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