Some said it looked like a yellow banana in the sky.
Once again, the wonders above us, the power of nature, the handiwork of God… however one views it, the world and the Universe left us humbled and in awe when the Moon crossed the face of the Sun, Monday, August 21, 2017.
It’s not that eclipses never happened before or we might not have seen even a partial one before, but the majesty it presents is so relatively rare, we were drawn to see it for ourselves- or at least on the TV news or a web page. Clouds failed to interrupt for most of the path of totality, across the U.S. this time, and millions of people were not disappointed. For the rest of North America, it was a partial event. The extreme publicity this eclipse generated drew multitudes to find ways to safely look even if only part of the Sun was to be blocked out and turned into an ever-changing crescent form.
Here in this northeast corner of Pennsylvania, the Sun was almost three-quarters covered.
Angie Smith, 4-H Director for Penn State Extension in Pike County, PA, organized a Solar Eclipse Party at Airport Park, Matamoras.
Dozens of children were busy making pinhole eclipse viewing, nicely decorated, from paper plates or paper tubes. They were shown how to make a small but distinct image of the Sun, projected onto a white paper screen. The crescent was obvious.
Many people brought the commercially available solar eclipse eyeglasses, with the solar filters needed to protect one’s eyes.
The view through these was phenomenal, showing the Sun’s disc sharp and crisp, with what looked like a bite out of one side.
Some people brought cereal boxes- not because they were hungry but because they made nifty eclipse viewers. Emptied of cereal, a pinhole on the top cast a nice solar image on a white paper glued to the bottom, inside. A square was cut out from the side, allowing a view.
Another device that attracted a lot of interest was a vintage Sunspotter, invented by the late Daniel R. Janosik, who lived near Hawley in Lackawaxen Township, Pike County. The device contains mirrors and lens, and provides a large solar image on a cardboard screen inside the triangular-shaped box. Janosik made and sold over a thousand of them from his home, mostly through the 1980’s. He sold them to schools and individuals across the country.
The magnified image allowed several dark sunspots to be seen, while the Moon slowly covered them up.
It took about an hour and a half for the invisible Moon to advance, its darkened, round face making a deepening crescent up to the mid-point, and the going in reverse as the moon slipped away.
One could see in real time, how the Moon is moving across the sky as it orbits the Earth. Due to its inclined orbit, the Moon usually misses the Sun entirely.
Meanwhile, everyone gradually shifted their direction as the Sun and Moon moved westward, evidence of our own world’s constant rotation. The dynamics of the moving Solar System played out before our eyes, taken for granted every day except at times like these.
It was a wonder to think, how the Moon, 400 times smaller than the Sun, is also 400 times closer, making it appear the same size of the solar orb responsible for giving us heat and light. How startling it is when on these rare occasions, the Moon casts its shadow on us.
Several people at the eclipse party commented how the ground illumination was noticeably diminished, around maximum eclipse.
While the crowd watched the partial event in the sky, NASA-TV’s live coverage was played on TV screens set up under the pavilion. One could hear the eruption of cheers and applause, as a literal wave of excitement swept down the narrow path of the Moon’s umbral shadow, moving through the states. The crowds watching from the path of totality burst in joy as the moment came with the Moon fully engulfing the Sun, darkness fell and the Sun’s glowing corona appeared.
“I think it’s great to see people out and observing their surroundings more,” said Aaron Tidridge of Milford, PA, who was enjoying the eclipse with the solar filter sunglasses.”We should always be pondering what God’s earth is.”
Tidridge was keeping in contact with his daughter via his Smartphone, who was in Tennessee at that moment with her boyfriend watching the total eclipse.
“It’s nature at work,” said Donald Board of Dingmans Ferry, PA, who was intrigued by the view. “It’s bigger than all of us.”
NOTE: Readers who watched the eclipse, especially from the path of totality, are encouraged to send in a report about what they saw, and what it was like to be there. Where did you watch it from? Reports (including photos, if any) may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
First quarter Moon is on August 29.
— Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at email@example.com. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.