Fa­ther, son pre­pare for eclipse after missed 1979 view­ing

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

The last time a to­tal so­lar eclipse blacked out the sun in Ore­gon nearly 40 years ago. Gene Brick was work­ing in a tim­ber mill that re­fused to shut down for the spec­ta­cle. The World War II vet­eran and am­a­teur as­tronomer was dev­as­tated when his friends raved about ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a pitch-dark sky in the mid­dle of the day. "Ev­ery­one who was out­side got to see it, and they en­joyed telling me all about it - and I was hurt by that," said Brick, now 92. "But work is work, you know." Brick will get an­other chance to wit­ness history this month, when a to­tal so­lar eclipse be­gins its path across the US in Ore­gon.

The one he missed in 1979 cov­ered the Pa­cific North­west and parts of Canada. This to­tal eclipse will be vis­i­ble from coast to coast across the na­tion - some­thing that hasn't hap­pened in 99 years. Brick plans to watch the event with his son us­ing two tele­scopes: a fancy new one and one the two crafted to­gether 53 years ago in their base­ment. The men will peer at the sun through both dur­ing the eclipse's to­tal­ity, when the moon's shadow com­pletely cov­ers the sun for just over two min­utes. They also will use spe­cial fil­ters to pho­to­graph the eclipse through the newer ma­chine.

For Brick, who sur­vived a kamikaze at­tack on the USS Drexler dur­ing the Bat­tle of Ok­i­nawa, the op­por­tu­nity is the ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time. "I al­ways loved to look at the moon," he said, after peer­ing through the te­le­scope the pair crafted in 1964. "I still do." The Bricks will have a prime lo­ca­tion for their fa­ther-son mo­ment. The town of Madras, in cen­tral Ore­gon, is in the high desert, where sum­mer­time skies are of­ten clear and cloud­less. Up to 100,000 peo­ple are ex­pected to flock to the town and sur­round­ing Jef­fer­son County for the Aug 21 event, cre­at­ing wor­ries about over­crowd­ing and traf­fic.

Brick's son, Bartt Brick, is on the Madras City Coun­cil and will be on call dur­ing the eclipse. But tak­ing the time to watch the event with his fa­ther is im­por­tant to him. The elder Brick got the last four cred­its he needed for his high school di­ploma by sign­ing up for the US Navy and never at­tended col­lege - but even in his 90s, he's study­ing par­ti­cle physics.

A new dic­tio­nary

The pair de­cided to build the te­le­scope when the younger Brick was 14, after find­ing a piece of glass in his late grand­fa­ther's garage that was hand-ground into a con­cave lens for a te­le­scope. Gene Brick worked long, hard days cut­ting logs at the mill then stayed up into the night work­ing on the project with his teenage son. "We'd bought our­selves a book on tele­scopes and a new dic­tio­nary, and after about - what - four or five months, we had a te­le­scope," Bartt Brick re­called on a re­cent summer day. "I'd sleep about half the night," his fa­ther added with a chuckle. The two dragged the te­le­scope out­side on the night they fin­ished, aimed it to­ward the heav­ens by prop­ping it on a steplad­der, and peered into the night sky un­til they spied the Ring Ne­bula, a dy­ing star in a con­stel­la­tion about 2,000 light years from Earth.

"We were so ex­cited, we ran in and told Mom. But at 2 o'clock in the morn­ing, she wasn't as thrilled as we were," the younger Brick said. Over the years, the te­le­scope got a lot of use from the fam­ily and from a string of neigh­bor­hood chil­dren who lined up most evenings to peer at the moon. But when the 1979 to­tal so­lar eclipse came along, the elder Brick was work­ing, the younger Brick no longer lived at home, and the te­le­scope went un­used. When Bartt Brick moved back to Madras three years ago, the stars aligned for an­other crack at a shared ce­les­tial show.

On Aug 21, three gen­er­a­tions of Bricks will as­sem­ble. They'll have a sleek black, new te­le­scope equipped with a re­mote con­trol and a USB cord for snap­ping pho­tos through a com­puter. But they'll also have on hand the unas­sum­ing, un­mounted me­tal cylin­der they worked on so long ago. "Dad's had a mes­sage for me ever since I was 2 years old, and it was, 'Be cu­ri­ous,'" Bartt Brick said. "And boy, did I learn how to be cu­ri­ous with this." — AP

YAN­GON: Photo shows el­derly res­i­dents of the "Twi­light Villa" nurs­ing home being watched by nurses in one of the cen­tre's rooms on the edge of Yan­gon.

YAN­GON: Photo shows el­derly res­i­dent of the "Twi­light Villa" nurs­ing home re­ceiv­ing free den­tal work at the cen­ter on the edge of Yan­gon.

MADRAS, Ore­gon: This frame grab from a video shows Gene Brick, 92, left, and his son, Bartt Brick, peer­ing through a te­le­scope that they made to­gether in 1964. — AP

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