Nothing pleased Pace University Astronomy Professor Matt Ganis more than to see an estimated 500 people turn out at the school’s campus for the sky-watching event of the century.
The university opened its main quad to the public Monday afternoon for a viewing party for the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States in 99 years. Not only did early students who arrived early for the new academic year and faculty take in the show, but people with no connection to Pace were welcome.
“It’s fun to see people come out, it really is, because the interest is there,” Ganis said. “More than anything, it’s a fascination with astronomy and space and all that. It’s so much fun.”
Astronomy lovers as well as the curious gathered from 1:30 to 3 p.m., a few with their own telescopes and many others with homemade contraptions consisting of cardboard or cereal boxes where they could safely view the image even if they didn’t have a pair of eclipse glasses.
Despite a bright and sunny morning, some high clouds filtered in by early afternoon over the campus, putting a slight damper on the celebration and the view.
However, with eclipse glasses one could see the moon sliding over a portion of the sun. In New York, about 70 percent of the sun was obscured by the moon.
Gabe Palacio, a professional photographer from Katonah, had his equipment set up on the quad to get whatever images he could. But it was more important to bring his son and a few of his friends to keep them interested.
“We wanted to bring our kids out somewhere and thought if we just did it in our backyard it wouldn’t be as interesting as coming out and seeing other people and experiencing it as part of a community,” Palacio said.
Briarcliff Manor resident Tyler Leitman said he attended because so many people had been talking about it and the event’s rarity.
“This is an astronomical phenomenon and it’s a once- or maybe twice-in-a-lifetime experience and it’s remarkable, truly,” Leitman said.
Members of the Westchester Amateur Astronomers were on hand with telescopes with filters to protect gazers’ eyes. Charles Gibson, senior vice president of the organization, said even though some fellow members traveled out to the far west to view it in the 70-mile wide Totality Zone, he was happy to help astronomy neophytes gaze through a telescope.
New Pace President Marvin Krislov said the university opened up the grounds after his son told him he was traveling to South Carolina for the event to be in the Totality Zone. Krislov then realized many that were part of the general public would be interested. He thought the school might get a more modest gathering of enthusiasts but was pleased with the turnout.
“All I know is that universities should be places where people come together for educational events,” he said. “So we have a faculty member who is talking about the science of it. We have food and everybody loves food. People brought their telescopes and it’s just terrific.”
If you missed Monday’s eclipse, no need to worry. Hold onto those glasses and telescopes because there will be another one visible in the United States on June 10, 2021, although that will one will begin shortly before daybreak. Then there will be yet another eclipse on Apr. 8, 2024, with the Totality Zone far closer to New York.