Solar eclipse darkens the sky, brightens faces
Rain holds off as hundreds set up tents, chairs, blankets at science center
The solar eclipse drew a crowd to the James E. Richmond Science Center Monday, where people pitched canopies and planted lawn chairs to catch a glimpse of the natural phenomenon.
People began lining up early at the center next to St. Charles High School to purchase coveted eclipse glasses.
Even though the glasses weren’t going on sale until 12:30 p.m., according to one staff member the line began forming at 7:30 in the morning.
Jack Belle, a resource teacher at the science center, said the count was more than 500 people in line to get a pair of eclipse glasses for $1. “We’ve had traffic the likes of which I’ve never seen before,” he said.
By 2 p.m., the science center’s parking lot was full. Cars were parked along the school’s driveway, across the street, and even in the adjacent Regency Furniture Stadium parking lot, and trekked in with backpacks, chairs and coolers.
The weather, which until yesterday, had threatened to be overcast and rainy, broke long enough for people to watch as the moon gradually obscured more of the sun until, at its peak at 2:43 p.m., 85 percent of the sun was blocked, bathing everyone in an eerie pearlish light.
“Can you feel how much cooler it is than just a few minutes ago?” asked Court Wing, who is in town from New York to visit family. Wing recalled seeing a total eclipse in 1979 growing up in Seattle. “My kids are not so into this, but I think this is amazing,” he said.
“It’s so awesome,” said Micah Wooten, who used his eclipse glasses as a filter and phone to take a picture of the eclipse. Eddy Wooten, Micah’s mother said they arrived at the science center at 1:30 p.m. “It’s been a little cloudy, but with the glasses you can still see everything,” she said.
The science center staff welcomed a group of seniors from the Learning Is ForEver program who rode up from St. Mary’s County especially for the event. The staff treated them to a movie in the planetarium before the eclipse, and provided them with a tent, tables, chairs and refreshments so they could enjoy the festivities.
The science center set up a viewing table that beamed an image of the sun through a pinhole for people to gather around and observe as the moon gradually obscured more and more of the sun’s bright disk. Center staff also set up a trailer alongside the school gym that broadcasted a live image.
Learning Is ForEver is a volunteer run program that provides outreach educational tours for seniors throughout Southern Maryland.
“This wasn’t part of our scheduled spring and fall programming, but because it was such a unique opportunity, we scheduled this event at the last minute,” said Norine Rowe, who manages the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program for the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services. “It was an educational event for the seniors and maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. We wanted the seniors to be able to take advantage of this.”
“This is my first eclipse,” Rowe added. “It’s very exciting.”
Food trucks lined one side of the parking lot, providing ice cream, cold drinks, and snacks.
Sheltered from both sun and rain by a giant blue umbrella, Tara Cecil and her mother Corinne drove from Charlotte Hall to observe the eclipse. Once the event was over and the sky began to lighten up again, they remained behind waiting for their ride.
“It was great, but I wish I could have taken better pictures of it,” Corinne said, scrolling through the results on her cell phone.
“There’s going to be another solar eclipse in seven years,” Tara said. “I’m going to save my glasses for then.”
Eliana, Micah and Malachi Wooten, front, Elizabeth Wooten, Sharon Holmes and Eddy Wooten came prepared with their their own eclipse glasses Monday to the James E. Richmond Science Center.
Court Wing, left, of New York and Pat Coyle of Malcolm use their eclipse glasses to view the partial solar eclipse Monday at the James E. Richmond Science Center in Waldorf.
Seniors participating in the Learning Is ForEver program, sponsored by the St. Mary’s County Department of Aging and Human Services, were treated to a special movie screening in the planetarium and enjoyed the eclipse from the comfort of a VIP tent courtesy of the James E. Richmond Science Center.
The eclipse nears its peak, as viewed through a projector set up by the staff of the James E. Richmond Science Center.