Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 17, 2018

It was ‘eyes to the skies’ for residents

By David Hotle | Aug 22, 2017
Hundreds of people turned out to the Washington square Monday at around noon to watch the first total solar eclipse to be visible from the area since 1918. The sky was a bit cloudy, but that did not stop people from enjoying the eclipse. While the sun was not totally blocked by the moon in Iowa, the sky got considerably darker and the temperature dropped at about 1:10 p.m., which was the time the sun was most greatly obscured by the moon. The library reported giving out 1,000 pairs of protective glasses for the event.


For about an hour shortly after noon Monday, hundreds of Washingtonians turned their eyes to the skies using a variety of eye protection and electronic gadgets to record the first total solar eclipse visible from Washington since 1918.

While there has been another eclipse visible in the United States — in 1979 — it was not visible in Iowa. The next eclipse will occur Oct. 14, 2023 and won’t be visible from Iowa. The next eclipse that will be partially visible in Iowa is April 8, 2024.

“It looks like a half moon, only it is a half sun,” resident Ron Andersen said as he watched the eclipse through special eye filters while the moon had passed about halfway across the sun. “You don’t get this chance very often. Take it when you have got it.”

The total solar eclipse, sometimes referred to as the Great American Eclipse, occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, either totally or partially obscuring the sun. During a total eclipse, to a viewer on Earth, the moon’s shadow across the sun appears bigger than the sun because of its closer proximity and the sun is totally blocked out in some areas.

In the Washington square, about 250 people turned out to watch the eclipse. Because the eclipse was only partially visible, the sky never went totally dark, although the light from the sun dimmed and the temperature got noticeably cooler.

The Washington Public Library had blocked off part of West Washington Street as part of its eclipse party so people could watch the eclipse from the street without the danger of traffic. Eclipse glasses that the library gave viewers let none but the brightest of light in, and could not be seen through otherwise.

On the sidewalk of North Marion Avenue Tim Elliott and Jacqueline Zieglowsky played with their cellphones and glasses, working to get a picture of the eclipse. They were able to get a decent picture of the crescent sun when a cloud blew past and partially obscured the light.

“it is so cool,” Zieglowsky said. “It is hard not to look at it. I’ve never seen one before so it is cool to see.”

Elliott also said a total eclipse is such a rarity people needed to take the time out to view it.

As the eclipse party continued, families and friends gathered together to watch the moon making its path across the sun. While it was not visible to the naked eye (if people looked at the sun with the naked eye, which was stressed to not be safe).

“I didn’t expect it to be as good as it is,” Jonathan Beckler, who watched the eclipse with friend Alysha Genkinger, said. “it is very entertaining. It is something unique you may not get to see again in your lifetime.”

Zoe Kane watched the eclipse with the company of her mother, sisters, and several friends. She said the event was amazing, but the greatest part was being able to be out and share the event as a community.

“I’ve never seen one before,” she said. “I’m here with the community and they have all these cool things to do.”

Library director Debbie Stanton said she was happy with the turnout to the eclipse party that stood in the street in front of the library and throughout Central Park.

“The whole point is that we wanted to invite everyone downtown to enjoy this together,” she said. “I am so glad the clouds for the most part helped us out and got out of the way.”

She said the library gave away 1,000 pairs of the eclipse glasses.

The library is collecting the glasses from people who do not wish to keep them to be used by a program called “Astronomers Without Borders.”

The glasses will be used in third-world countries so the native peoples can see eclipses that are visible from their region. The glasses have a shelf life of 10 years.

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