Blind people can hear, feel total solar eclipse

While eclipse watchers look to the skies, people who are blind or visually impaired will be able to hear and feel the celestial event.

Sound and touch devices will be available at public gatherings on April 8, when a total solar eclipse crosses North America, the moon blotting out the sun for a few minutes.

"Eclipses are very beautiful things, and everyone should be able to experience it once in their lifetime," said Yuki Hatch, a high school senior in Austin, Texas.

Hatch is a visually impaired student and a space enthusiast who hopes to one day become a computer scientist for NASA. On eclipse day, she and her classmates at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired plan to sit outside in the school's grassy quad and listen to a small device called a LightSound box that translates changing light into sounds.

When the sun is bright, there will be high, delicate flute notes. As the moon begins to cover the sun, the mid-range notes are those of a clarinet. Darkness is rendered by a low clicking sound.

"I'm looking forward to being able to actually hear the eclipse instead of seeing it," said Hatch.

The LightSound device is the result of a collaboration between Wanda Díaz-Merced, an astronomer who is blind, and Harvard astronomer Allyson Bieryla. Díaz-Merced regularly translates her data into audio to analyze patterns for her research.

A prototype was first used during the 2017 total solar eclipse that crossed the U.S., and the handheld device has been used at other eclipses.

This year, they are working with other institutions with the goal of distributing at least 750 devices to locations hosting eclipse events in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. They held workshops at universities and museums to...

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