They came with taped-up cereal boxes, special glasses and a lot of anticipation to view the solar eclipse
The center of the solar system was the center of attention across the nation Monday as people everywhere turned their protected eyes to watch the sun get blocked — either totally or partially — by the moon as it passed between it and the earth.
At least 200 people gathered on the patio of the Scandling Center at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, where Professors Leslie Hebb and David Kendrick were happy to share their knowledge and several safe ways for people to view the phenomenon.
Hebb, a professor of physics, set up a large telescope with a filter for people to watch as the round shape of the moon slowly cut into the viewing path of the sun, eventually leaving a crescent showing until it completely passed by.
A swath of the country from Washington to South Carolina — known as the path of totality — was temporarily left in the dark as the moon blocked all but a “ring of fire” (or corona) of the outermost edges of the sun, framing the eclipsing moon.
Hebb and Kendrick, a geoscience professor, also supplied boxes, tin foil, tubes and other materials for people to make their own pinhead cameras and telescopes in which a pin prick allows enough light into one end of the device to project an image of the misshapen sun onto a filter, protecting the viewers eyes.
“Don't look at the sun,” viewers had been warned for days.
“The sun is too bright to look at, so we block it,” Hebb explained. “It comes through the pinhole and forms an image of the sun on the tracing paper.”
Hebb said there really is no difference in the sun's intensity during an eclipse and that it is always dangerous to look at the sun, but the warnings intensify when an eclipse occurs because people are more apt to look toward the bright star.
Hebb also set up a projector device, carefully lining up special lenses, to project an shadow image of the sun onto a piece of paper on the ground, similar to the images viewed through the paper tube telescopes and box viewing cameras.
“The New York Times said the best way to view the eclipse is with a group of people,” said Janna Greitzer. “It's a beautiful day. This morning, it was so cloudy, I wasn't sure we would be able to see anything. Science, in general, fascinates me.”
Donna Wandell, Geneva Family YMCA site director for the senior camp program, and other YMCA staff members accompanied a group of 31 children ages 8-12 who made their own devices with the materials brought by Hebb and Kendrick.
“I heard about it through a friend and then I got on the website and I thought it would be a great thing for us to do today,” Wandell said, noting one of the the counselors, Darcy Tate, wants to be an astronomer.
Adam Smith brought his five children who worked on creating viewing devices and taking turns peeking through Hebb's telescope.
“I just wanted to show the kids something,” he said. “So far, I think it's great. I think it's great that they're doing it. It's giving them a great experience that they don't get everyday.”
“I see it,” said 5-year-old Asher Smith, peaking through the telescope.
“Oh, can you see it?” asked Hebb, taking a look. “Oh yeah. It's beautiful.”
Kendrick said historically, eclipses were very important scientifically, leading to the discovery of helium and proving Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.
“There's a large amount of interest for anyone who knows about the sun,” he said. “This event reminds us that there are celestial objects — these big things in space — that pass in front of each other. We are joining in a celebration of the natural world and the celebration of our part in it.”
Kendrick said he has seen three other eclipses in his lifetime. The one he remembers most was the one he saw as a child in Indiana, when his parents made their own devices to view images of the sun on paper.
He said he and his family thought about going to somewhere in the path of totality, but it just did not work out.
While he spoke, live footage from NASA of the eclipse was shown on several large-screen televisions as it began in Oregon around 1:15 p.m. EST and ended about 2:45 p.m. in South Carolina. The partial eclipse was still visible in Ontario County until close to 4 p.m.
Elsewhere around the county, special glasses were handed out at Roseland Waterpark to the first 100 visitors and members of Cub Scout Pack 50 planned to gather at Pumpkin Hook Park in Farmington, a venture that included viewing the eclipse and earning a Solar Eclipse Patch.
They came with taped-up cereal boxes, eclipse glasses and a lot of anticipation to the Route 20A overlook in Honeoye to witness the eclipse. Nearly 100 people converged on the hillside where the center of the action was a hydrogen-alpha telescope.
“Designed just for the sun,” said Honeoye resident Bob Smith, the telescope’s owner and longtime astronomy enthusiast. Smith helped line-after-line of viewers get just the right angle to see first-hand the developing wonder.
At Smith’s side was budding astronomer Colin Faherty, who turns 11 on Saturday.
A Marcus Whitman student entering the sixth grade, Colin, with his enthusiasm and steady hand, took smartphone photos for anyone who wanted them as they stepped up to the telescope.
Smith, a retired community involvement coordinator for Walmart, said he got the astronomy bug because he “grew up in the Apollo era” — when the United States landed its first astronauts on the moon from 1969 to 1972.
Monday was something special, he said.
Elizabeth Copella of Canandaigua said she remembers being in the third grade in 1994 during the previous solar eclipse. “All the kids had to go the library. They kept us from the windows,” she said. Today, she was thrilled to bring her kids and take in this historic eclipse right under the sky.
Patrick Freivald of Honeoye, a physics teacher in Naples, was there with several students and brought his powerful welding helmets. Among those getting a good look with a helmet was Malcolm Woloson, 13, of Honeoye, and his sister, Cora Woloson, 16.
“I love it. It’s so crazy,” said Cora.
“It blows your mind,” said Aniya DeBride, 17, also of Honeoye.
In the Canandaigua area the eclipse began to be visible at 1:15 p.m. and it maxed out at 2:36 p.m. By 3:52 p.m. it was one for the history books.
All across the Finger Lakes region people paused — some for a few minutes, others for a few hours.
Over near Hemlock Lake, the party started well before the eclipse began with some wine and a workshop. Vintner Will Ouweleen of O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest Vineyards led a group in making eclipse boxes out of wine boxes. It was all part of the Grillin’ and Chillin Party from noon to 4 p.m. at the winery in Conesus.
Featured wines for the Solar Eclipse party were those aptly named: Eagle Crest’s “Midnight Moon,” “Solar Flare,” — along with “Eclipse Red” and “Eclipse White” by fellow Finger Lakes winery Heron Hill.
In Naples, the crew busy at work putting up the next show took some time to soak in the event.
“The BVT crew were in the yard of the theater, watching through eclipse glasses provided by (of course) our lighting designer,” said Bristol Valley Theater Artistic Director Karin Bowersock. “Particularly cool as the show we are building and rehearsing is about the true life astronomer, Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered the way to measure the universe in the early part of the 20th century.”