Solar Eclipse Viewing Party

“Happiness and joy”: Hundreds gather on campus in awe of eclipse

by Molly Callahan

On Monday, hundreds of people descended on Centennial Common to view the country’s first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years. The grounds hummed with energy as people of all ages—holding eclipse viewing cards to their faces, or peering into homemade viewing boxes, or wearing eclipse glasses—shared in the communal experience.

Indeed, so many people were looking for a way to see the eclipse that Snell Library ran out of eclipse glasses within minutes.

“We didn’t expect this kind of craziness, but it was so cool to see everyone so excited,” said Jon Reed, Snell Library communications specialist.

The viewing party on Centennial Common, hosted by Northeastern’s Department of Physics, drew a crowd of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, all eager for a glimpse at history.

Fay Shen, E’18, constructed an eclipse viewing box out of an empty cereal box based on an online tutorial. “I’m really excited,” she said just a few minutes before the eclipse began. Shen said her mother was at home in South Carolina—one of the states in the path of totality, where a view of the total solar eclipse was possible. In Boston, the moon covered roughly 60 percent of the sun at the peak of the eclipse. “That’s still pretty cool,” she said, smiling. “I can’t complain.”

Nathan Israeloff, associate professor in the Department of Physics, set up a telescope display that projected the sun’s light onto a white poster. As the moon traveled past the sun, the light reflected on the poster was slowly, well, eclipsed.

SEE: View more photos from the day

“How often do you get to see something like this?” Israeloff asked. “It’s pretty rare. It’s exciting.”

While her daughter was taking an art class at the nearby Museum of Fine Arts, Stephanie Wratten and her son Simon Engerman picked a lush spot on the common to watch the eclipse.

Engerman, 9, eclipse glasses in hand, was particularly excited. “I’ve never seen an eclipse before,” he said, beaming. “We’re only going to be able to see part of the sun; it’s so rare.”

Saba Jalal, MS’17, and Sadiya Gurhan, AMD’20, also took part in the festivities. “It’s a great day,” Jalal said. Gurhan added, “This is one of those universal occurrences that brings people together. Plus, it will be a great story to tell the grandkids.”

Carlos Fuentes, E/S’18, said he’s pursuing a major in physics but has always been interested in astronomy. “My dad and I would set up a telescope in the driveway, so I’m no stranger to the night sky,” he said. “This is something you can’t miss. It’s the kind of thing that sort of weirds everyone out because it’s so abnormal, but that’s what makes it relatable for everyone, too.”

Katie Dupree and Mindy Cimini, who both work in the area and stopped by to view the eclipse, also noted its universal appeal. “You hear people say how everyone in the world is looking at the same sun, the same moon all the time,” Cimini said. “This really embodies that—it’s the same moon no matter where you are when you’re looking at it. That’s pretty cool.”

Ashkan Ghanbarzadeh, PhD’18, was nearly bouncing with excitement. “Today everyone is excited,” he said. “Our daily routine is broken up today; we all get to share in this experience that just brings happiness and joy.”

Physics professor Nathan Israeloff, center, talks with fellow eclipse viewers on Centennial Commons. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Originally published in news@Northeastern on August 22, 2017.

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