So­lar eclipse dark­ens the sky, bright­ens faces

Rain holds off as hun­dreds set up tents, chairs, blan­kets at science cen­ter

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By PAUL LAGASSE pla­gasse@somd­news.com

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.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY PAUL LAGASSE

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.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY PAUL LAGASSE

The eclipse nears its peak, as viewed through a pro­jec­tor set up by the staff of the James E. Rich­mond Science Cen­ter.

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