Thousands gather on campus to watch partial solar eclipse

Photo Credit: Bernd Thaller

2017 total solar eclipse in Wyoming. Photo Credit: Bernd Thaller

Students, faculty, staff and local residents gathered around campus to watch a partial solar eclipse during the first day of the semester Aug. 21.

“We knew that as the first day of school, it was going to be a big event to bring the campus together, that we were going to have a lot of students in the same place. We wanted to make sure that they would kind of have a learning opportunity that is unusual,” communication specialist Layton Shumway said. “It’s kind of a rare experience. The administration wanted to make sure that students weren’t denied that experience just because it’s the first day of school.”

The university provided protective glasses for students to safely view the event. Over 10,000 pairs were available for the event, Shumway said. The physics department set up two Meade telescopes equipped with solar filters for close-up views of the rare event.

“This is a UVU library telescope and it’s available for students to check out for free,” outreach librarian Rich Paustenbaugh said. “We have a solar filter on there so that it won’t damage your eyes.”

A group of science professors took several interested students to Idaho Falls so they could experience the total eclipse, CAL LEAD volunteer Jessica Carlson said.

Students gathered on the library quad, the Pope Science rooftop and the fountain quad for a clear view. Live sun-themed music was playing on the rooftop and students chatted excitedly as everyone waited for the pinnacle.

“[Students] are up here enjoying this awesome thing that’s happening. Probably, for some of them, it’s going to be a once or twice in a lifetime opportunity,” Paustenbaugh said.

“I’m excited to see the eclipse,” criminal justice freshman Jailena Santiago said. “I’ll tell my grand babies about this.”

Art history freshman Kayley Singson and Mattea Shirley, a university studies freshman, said it was “cool” to watch the uncommon occurance.

The eclipse began at 10:15 a.m. and reached its pinnacle at 11:30. Utah was not in the path of totality, so attendees witnessed only 91 percent of the celestial event. The path of totality is where the moon  completely covers the sun, blocking out the light and turning day to night.

According to NASA, a solar eclipse happens when “the moon passes between the sun and the earth and blocks all or part of the sun.” It typically lasts about three hours when viewed from a given location. The last total eclipse in North America took place in 1979.

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