Thousands Catch Glimpse Of Solar Eclipse

Aug 21, 2017

At observatories, public libraries, parks and universities, people gathered Monday to watch the moon pass in front of the sun. The total eclipse was only partially visible in New England, but that did not seem to dampen the spirits of families, co-workers and students who gathered to see it.

A long line snaked through the crowded main green at Brown University just before 2 o'clock in the afternoon, as onlookers waited for the chance to see  the eclipse through a telescope. 

Andrew Avery shows off a cardboard box eclipse viewer made by his wife, Winnie Gier. A small image of the eclipse is projected on the back wall of the box through a pinhole.
Credit Sofia Rudin / RIPR

With eclipse-viewing glasses in short supply, many people shared with their friends, or offered strangers the chance to borrow their glasses and get a good look.

Some eclipse enthusiasts arrived equipped with home-made viewing devices, making good use of old cereal boxes and big cardboard boxes.


Jacob Stanton, a physics student at Brown, was excited to see his first solar eclipse.
Credit Sofia Rudin / RIPR

"It's beautiful," said Jacob Stanton, a sophomore at Brown, who was passing out protective glasses.

Stanton had never seen an eclipse before, and as a student of physics, he was thrilled.

“Especially as a physicist,” he said. "You have all these amazing astronomical things that happen, but you can’t experience it like this, and that’s pretty amazing.”

Many people took a moment to photograph the eclipse with cameras and smart phones, while others settled on the grass for the full event, which was expected to last at least three hours. A few onlookers stood and stared in silence as the moon covered a growing piece of the sun.

Around downtown Providence, workers gathered outside of office buildings, taking some time out of the work day to view a rare, celestial occurrence. The sky darkened only slightly, as if the sun were passing behind some clouds.

At the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, more than 1,000 people showed up for a glimpse of the eclipse at a viewing party on the main lawn, hosted by the Physics Department.

Alethia Mariotta of Marion, Massachusetts brought her two young daughters.

“I remember being about their age, and seeing must have been a partial solar eclipse,” said Mariotta. “And I remember being out on this big hillside with a group of people, much like this gathered today. And I really wanted them to have that experience too.”

82-year old Dartmouth resident Marjorie Abbot arrived in the morning at to secure her spot to see the eclipse, which didn’t peak until nearly 3 o'clock in the afternoon.

“It’s not going to happen again in my lifetime and I wanted to be part of it,” Abbot said. “It’s very exciting to see people with an interest, and everybody’s happy. They look through these special glasses and say ‘oh!’ It’s just spectacular.”

The crowd was far larger than expected. Organizers ordered only 50 pairs of protective eyewear, so everyone had to share. RIPR's John Bender borrowed a pair and took a look, just as the eclipse reached its fullest point.

"I must admit it was incredibly cool," he said.

The total eclipse was really more of a 75 percent eclipse in Southeastern New England, but UMass professors said they were thrilled to see so many people excited by science.

Indeed, from New York and Connecticut all the way to Maine, similar scenes were unfolding. In Stonington, Maine, eclipse-watchers picked a picturesque viewing spot on Caterpillar Hill. 

"Our friend Tim has made solar eclipse viewers, and so you can see the sun with the shadow of the moon passing across it," said Jane Williams, who was visiting the area from London, England.

In Stonnington, Maine, a view of the eclipse amid wildflowers.
Credit Lynn Arditi / RIPR