Rare Solar Eclipse Captivates Northeast

Aug 22, 2017

Thousands of people attended solar eclipse viewing parties around the Northeast Monday. WAMC joined students at Berkshire Art and Technology Charter Public School in Adams, Massachusetts who took in the sight on the first day of the school year.  

All of the BART students were ushered into the auditorium around 2:15 for a welcoming assembly... and to watch the solar eclipse.

The school’s new executive director Jay White told students he had been waiting decades to see it.

“My goodness, gracious on August 21, 2017 the shadow of the moon is going to move all the way across the United States,” White says.

At about 2:45 it was show time. In the Northeast, a roughly 65 percent solar eclipse could be seen.

And the kids were amazed.

But in a line from Oregon to South Carolina, the moon completely blocked out the sun. It was the first time the United States experienced a total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years.

“Well I am using these special glasses to look at it,” Emmett Krantz says.

Sixth grader Emmett Krantz, from Pittsfield, laid on the ground staring into the sky, jaw dropped. Students were given bulky glasses – which resemble 3D movie glasses - to protect their eyes from the sun.

“Right now it looks like a quarter on top of the sun,” Krantz says. “Big black circle, which is the moon, on top of the sun, which is orange.”

Catching up with White after the eclipse, he said:

“Going to school is an important thing, but when we think about the things about schooling that stand out in our minds, we adults, we think about an eclipse or we think about things are larger than the school experience,” White says. “And if you talk to adults now, you say ‘tell me about where you went to school’ the things that captivate them are those things that larger, that are lasting and significant, and being able to experience something like a solar eclipse is lasting and significant.”

White received a doctorate in astronomy from Indiana University in Bloomington. He’s toured around the world speaking about astronomy, including in Vietnam and New Zealand. White is a fellow of Great Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society and a member of the Paris-based International Astronomical Union.

White said he always imagined he’d see the eclipse in Tennessee, where he headed physics at Rhodes College in Memphis. His career eventually took him to the Northeast, first as the Provost at Southern Vermont College in Bennington, and now at BART.

White says witnessing the eclipse is not a bad first day on the job. He says he hopes students can appreciate the “awesomeness” of the event.

If you missed Monday’s eclipse, White points out people in the Northeast only have to wait seven years for the chance of seeing another one. In April 2024, the moon will completely block the sun in a path from Texas to Maine. 

“But there is something about standing in the path of totality, where that shadow comes rushing over you at 1,500 miles an hour, you are plunged into darkness, the animals start erupting and start acting strange, and then to have daylight return…,” White says.

Amazing.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people gathered on the RPI campus in Troy, New York.

Elieen Carson from Clifton Park brought her ten-year-old son, Sam.

“Wicked cool,” Carson says, “really, so neat how it just looks so incredibly different looking at the sun with the glasses.”

“It was really, really cool,” her son says.

Nearby was Meriam Rundell, and her father Rob, from Seattle, Washington. Meriam, who starts classes at RPI in September, was wowed by the eclipse.

“I really like space,” Rundell says.

Fittingly, Meriam says she intends to study aeronautical engineering.