As people all across North America were experiencing a rare, total solar eclipse Monday morning, South Pasadenans were out and about in the city taking in this spectacular sight. While places like Oregon and Wyoming were in the “path of totality” meaning they actually experienced darkness in the middle of the day, we here in South Pasadena had a 60% eclipse; it wasn’t dark, but it sure was “odd”. There was a definite haze to the normal cerulean sky, as if you had sunglasses on.
About a hundred or more people gathered in and around the library where there was a very special presentation given by Dr. Bonnie Buratti of JPL about the eclipse which was followed by a live feed from NASA, delivering live shots from Wyoming and Oregon. There were audible gasps from the commentators and guests when we reached totality and we saw the “diamond ring” effect; as the moon grazes by the sun, beads of sunlight suddenly shine through and when there is one last bead left, it pops out in a flash, creating this look of a diamond ring circling the sun.
People were invited outside to view the eclipse through special sunglasses and again, you could hear audible gasps from people as they witnessed it as it happened. Several police officers were in attendance along with Fire Chief Riddle, City Council members Marina Khubesrian, Bob Joe and Richard Schneider along with many familiar faces all looking skyward (only with the protective eyewear of course!)
Dr. Steven Lynn, a local chiropractor who has had his business here in South Pas for the past 23 years, offered patients and friends a special treat by bringing out his powerful refractor telescope outfitted with a safe solar filter and inviting them to come have a look. Lynn’s solar filter blocks out 99% of the sunlight and says “ it’s very important to do that otherwise you can damage your eyes really fast. There are other ways, but this is the easiest, least expensive way to block out the sunlight.” He went on to say, “the sun is moving fairly quickly across the sky as the earth moves.”
Lynn had a toy Gilbert telescope and, to look at the sun, it had a little funnel at the top and you could project the image onto a piece of paper. “I saw a solar eclipse when I was about 11,” says Lynn, “fast forward 30 years and I subscribed to Astronomy magazine and began purchasing telescopes.”
School kids were allowed to go outside to see the eclipse using the special sunglasses or using the various concoctions of paper plates and aluminum foil. This was a spectacular, once in a lifetime event, and to relive it in HD, the science series NOVA will be broadcasting “Eclipse Over America” tonight, a one hour documentary on the today’s events. The path of totality covered a 70-mile-wide swath of North America, covering 17 states.