Jay M. Pasachoff, Chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Solar Eclipses, who spent more than 50 years traveling the world to observe solar eclipses died on November 20th, at his home in Williamstown, Mass. He experienced more than 70 solar eclipses including 36 totalities.
He saw his first solar eclipse as a 16-year-old first-year Harvard student and observed his last totality on Dec. 4, 2021, flying 41,000 feet above Antarctica to be under the Moon’s shadow. However, Jay was more than just an eclipse fan. He studied the corona, the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere, which, being one-millionth as bright as the sun itself, is best studied when the rest of the sun is obscured by the Moon during an eclipse.
Pasachoff preferred to be called an “eclipse preceder” instead of an “eclipse chaser” since would spend years before an eclipse preparing equipment, lining up grants, arranging travel and planning for any of the countless contingencies that might interfere with the few minutes he and his team would have to watch the moon pass before the sun.
His Ph.D. at Harvard was for studies of the solar chromosphere, and his first postdoctoral appointment was as Menzel Research Fellow at the Harvard College Observatory to work on the 1970 total solar eclipse.
He went to Williams College in 1972 and completed his 50th year of teaching there before his death.
Jay generously supported Eclipse262728 and its organizers from the beginning since 2016 and Eclipse262728 was honored to invite him to the eclipse ambassador course in 2022 for the Starlight guides and monitors.