Benjamin Boe

Solar Astronomy Graduate Student

Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii



I am a third year graduate student at the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) at the University of Hawaii working toward a PhD. My primary research interests are studying the Sun's outer atmosphere known as the solar corona, and understanding the formation process of the solar wind and the resulting space weather.

Solar Corona

I have been working on solar coronal research with Dr. Shadia Habbal using data from a Total Solar Eclipse (TSE). In the course of my work I traveled to two TSE expeditions (2016 Indonesia and 2017 USA), to make scientific observations with imagers and a spectrometer. I assisted in the construction and preparation of instruments for each TSE, including 2 new 3-channel spectrometers based on a 2-channel prototype.

In my recently completed research project, which has been accpeted for publication by the Astrophysical Journal (see videos and CV), I demonstrated the power of TSE forbidden emission line observations by measuring freeze-in distances of Fe10+ and Fe13+ in the corona for the first time. These measurements were made using narrow 0.5 nm bandpass filters centered on the Fe10+ and Fe13+ forbidden emission lines taken during the 20 March 2015 total solar eclipse. My future thesis research will expand this freeze-in distance analysis to several different data sets from TSEs ranging over a decade. In addition I intend to perform novel observations in the corona using TSE data and improve our understanding of the formation of the solar wind and space weather.

White light image of the solar corona during the 20 March 2015 Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) seen from Svalbard, Norway

Long Period Comets

At the IfA two research projects are required for an masters degree from the prior to continuing for a PhD. One project involved studying the solar corona with data taken during a Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) advised by Shadia Habbal, and is the groundwork for my upcomming thesis research. My other research involved modeling the detection eciency of the Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) survey at finding long period comets (LPC) using the Moving Object Processing System (MOPS). I simulated observations made with PS1 of synthetically generated LPCs, determining the detection eciency of PS1 as a function of each orbital parameter (i.e. perihelion,eccentricity, etc.). I then unbiased, or corrected, the orbital and size frequency distributions of observed LPCs for the first time with these eciencies. A publication on this research, advised by Dr. Robert Jedicke , is in final preparation for the AAS journal Icarus.

Artist's rendition of the theoretical Oort cloud, the source of observed long period comets

Musical Acoustics

During my undergraduate education at the University of Puget Sound, I was funded by a Washington State NASA Space Grant to do acoustics research with Dr. Randy Worland. I studied coupled vibrations between two drumheads and the air cavity inside the body of a drum. I used a table top optical setup to measure vibrational modes on a drum, and I developed a computer model (in COMSOL Multiphysics) to study the coupled system. I found that air modes in the drum could drive additional drumhead mode phases. I won awards for my work including the John Van Zytveld Award in Physical Science in 2013, and a poster award at the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) conference in 2013. I had a published a paper on this research in the ASA journal

The experimental setup I used to observe mode coupling between drumheads.

Completion of PhD

Eclipse expeditions
Years of Research

Contact Me

Honolulu, HI, US         Email:


Education for the next generations is as crucial an effort for scientists as groundbreaking research. Only with an educated public will we continue to recieve funding and have the benifits of our work understood and fully utilized. In my career I have strived to excell not only in academic research but also in education through both formal teaching and scientific outreach with the public.


This academic year (2017-2018) I have been the lead instructor of a 110 Astronomy lab course, responsible for all lectures and course material. In addition to using some existing curriculum, I created a computer lab about Sunspots and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). This summer (2018) I am scheduled to teach a summer course of Astronomy 110, with 6 weeks of daily lectures with a self generated curriculum. I also have several years experience as a teaching and lab assistant beginning in my second year of college.

Science Outreach

My thesis work studying the corona and the solar wind has direct implications for life on earth and offers unique opportunities for public outreach around the world. In Indonesia and Nebraska I taught many locals about solar eclipses and how to safely observe the event with solar glasses that we distributed. I will continue my outreach efforts at future eclipses and help to spread a greater appreciation for science worldwide.

I volunteer for the Maunakea Scholars program in collaboration with another graduate student in a high school classroom where students propose for time on several Maunakea telescopes. I work with students to refine their original research ideas, help them prepare telescope proposals and assist them with data analysis to produce results for science fairs and senior projects. One of my students from last year won the local science fair and presented at the Hawaii state science fair.

In addition to my focused mentoring outreach, I regularly participate in events for the general public as well as at local K-12 schools engaging in scienfic education using telescopes to show students nebulae, comets, planets and star clusters, or with spectroscopy demonstrations using gas tubes and diffraction gratings. I have also assisted in running demonstrations at the IfA’s yearly open house where members of the community are invited to tour our facilities and see scientific demonstrations.

As an undergraduate I was an active member of my university's physics club where I served as president for three years. As part of physics club I worked with fellow club members on physics and engineering projects such as constructing a bike powered electric generator, a Rubin's tube, as well as launching and recovering a camera and instrument payload from near space using a weather balloon. The Physics club's success drew the attention of the university's board of trustees, resulting in the participation of club leadership in a trustee's workshop discussing how to provide more extracurricular academic learning opportunities for students on our campus.


  • Maba, Halmahera, Indonesia
  • March 19, 2016

    Total Solar Eclipse Blog
  • Alliance, Nebraksa, United States
  • August 21, 2017

    Total Solar Eclipse Blog
  • South America
  • July 2, 2019

    Total Solar Eclipse Blog


Freeze-in Distances in the Solar Corona

University of Hawaii Solar Eclipse Interview

48th Division for Planetary Sciences Talk

University of Puget Sound Physics Club Weather Balloon