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A once-in-a-lifetime experience - shared together 

A woman in a blue trenchcoat kneeling, looking into a telescope. A man with a beard is laughing to her right.
Alexis Schlesinger / THE GATEPOST

By Francisco Omar Fernandez Rodriguez

Asst. Arts & Features Editor

This past Monday, hundreds of students gathered outside Framingham State, eclipse glasses in tow, to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event together. 

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. The moon obscures the view of the sun either totally or partially if at all depending on where you are on Earth.

Solar eclipses are rare events, especially for a specific area. The contiguous United States won’t see another total solar eclipse until 2044, though Alaska will witness one in 2033. The next one at all is in 2026, visible in certain parts of Europe and Greenland. Being able to see any kind of solar eclipse is a significant and memorable experience.

The solar eclipse’s path of totality is where the moon completely blocks the sun. The sky becomes dark, as though it’s dusk or dawn. During the April 8 eclipse, this path stretched across North America, from Mexico, through the United States, and up to Canada.

However, Massachusetts was not on the path of totality, so what Framingham State University witnessed was technically a partial eclipse. This is when the moon blocks some or most of the sun, but not all of it. Due to Massachusetts being relatively close to the path of totality, the moon covered almost all of the sun here. 

Because of how rare total solar eclipses are, many people traveled to states on the path of totality. However, even a partial eclipse is an uncommon sight to behold - but it must be done safely.

In order to look at a solar eclipse, it’s safest to wear special glasses designed specifically for solar eclipse viewing. As always, looking at the sun without sufficient protection for your eyes can cause permanent eye damage. The sun’s rays can burn retinas, which can cause impairment of vision. Even with the glasses, one shouldn’t stare at the eclipse for too long. Cameras can also be damaged without proper sun protection.

These solar eclipse glasses were handed out by the Christa McAuliffe Center in the McCarthy Center Lobby on the day of the eclipse, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., as well as general safety information about viewing the eclipse.

The Christa McAuliffe Center provided a safe viewing of the solar eclipse on the lawn in front of May Hall from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Safety glasses were available at the event as well. 

Many students and faculty gathered on the lawn, either sitting on the grass and blankets or standing. The sky was somewhat cloudy, but it didn’t cover the eclipse.

There also were sunspotters, devices that projected the eclipse onto a sheet of paper. This allowed people to view the eclipse without looking at the actual sun. 

At the event was the Planetarium and Media Technology Manager of the Christa McAuliffe Center Ross Barros-Smith. He was letting people use his Cassegrain telescope - set up with a full aperture solar filter - to safely look at the eclipse. 

He explained, “This drastically cuts down on the amount of light passing through the telescope, which makes it safe for us to use with just our eyes.”

Barros-Smith said viewing the solar eclipse was a mutually fun event for everyone. He added, “People who rarely look up at the sky are gaining a communal experience by sharing what is a fairly rare astronomical phenomenon together.”

When asked if the event was difficult to put together, he said he wouldn’t “put it in terms of difficulty.” He said the primary feeling was “one of enjoyment.”

Cesar Matos, program facilitator and team mentor for the PTM program at the Christa McAuliffe Center, said, “A lot of planning went into today’s event.”

Matos said, “The eclipse was amazing. Frankly it changed everything around us.” 

President Nancy Niemi was at the viewing as well. She said holding this event was important because it brought people together. 

She said, “We’re celebrating something that we can all share. I wish we could do this every week.”

She said she finds the eclipse fascinating, but she doesn’t know much about it. She added “That’s why we have such a wonderful planetarium of folks who do know. … So we all get a little more interested and a little more educated about astronomy.

“I hope everybody remembers what they were doing today - remembers this community and how much they enjoyed it,” Niemi said.

University Police Community Resource Officer Andrew Frimpong, said, “This was an absolutely magnificent feat of mother nature. I loved every minute of it.”

Tadiwa Chitongo, ’23, said, “I was not the biggest fan of space as a kid, but seeing the eclipse is really cool.”

Billy Hurbert, senior, said seeing the eclipse in person was “wicked cool.”

Dillon Riley, junior, said he noticed a change in temperature while standing outside to view the eclipse. 

Noelle Simonelli, sophomore, said, “I think this is pretty cool.” She added she is going to be 78 by the time this happens again, “so this is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Emma Brosnan, junior, said, “This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it's really cool we are all out to see it today.”

Sophia Cameron, junior, said, “This is really cool! I am so happy that I got to see it!”

Ella Reddin, senior, said, “I think this is just amazing - definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Sarah Gatti, junior, said, “This was really exciting. I was really excited to be able to see it at school!”

AJ Reinhardt, junior, said, “This was really cool. I'm really happy I was able to see it.”

The eclipse reached its maximum point at 3:49 p.m. Only a crescent-shaped sliver of the sun was still visible. 



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