Event-goers equipped with cardboard, kitchen utensils for eclipse

By Douglas McCulloch | Aug 21, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Lynne Lapalme, Tazkera Haque, and David Silverstein watch the eclipse with special sunglasses.

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth staff prepped for the first solar eclipse over the United States since 1979 with 50 pairs of special sunglasses to hand out at a viewing party. Thankfully the crowd, which numbered into the hundreds, came equipped with its own devices.

Some event-goers stood in lines to use the ISO-certified glasses, while others repurposed kitchenware and cardboard to view the August 21 phenomenon.

“The turnout was amazing, and we had many more people than we originally anticipated,” said physics professor Dr. Robert Fisher, who helped organize the event.

Despite the promise of free glasses, Melinda Blanchard brought a welder’s mask with the proper shade level to share with her friends. She used to work in welding, and had dug the old mask out of her closet.

“I heard that if you have it at a 12, you can look at the eclipse,” Blanchard said, taking off the helmet. “None of us were born before [the 1979 eclipse,] so we were really excited because we can all pass the mask around to look at it.”

Cathy Barker brought a colander from her kitchen, and used a ring to center the shining sunlight of the eclipse into view. It’s an idea she found after a quick Google search.

“I slacked on making a cereal box viewer, so I grabbed this and whipped it up when I got here,” Barker said.

Deborah Taylor and Linda Keith built pinhole viewers before the eclipse began. Using shoeboxes, they peeked inside to see a reflection of the eclipse instead of looking directly into the sun. It’s the second eclipse the pair has seen.

“The last time I made one of these was when I was in the Girl Scouts many years ago,” Keith said.

This year, the "path of totality" — a phrase defining where the moon completely blocked the sun — narrowly stretched from Oregon to South Carolina. In Dartmouth, about 65 percent of the sun was blocked by the moon at the peak of the event.

Fisher said the next shot at an eclipse is on April 8, 2024. Then, the "path of totality" will be centered in upper Vermont, giving northern New England a chance to witness it.

“I think a lot of people are already planning for the 2024 eclipse after getting a taste of this one,” Fisher said.

Lauren Provost peeks into a cereal box pinhole projector Amanda Rioux (left) built. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Melinda Blanchard uses her welding mask to look at the sun. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Deborah Taylor and Linda Keith both built shoebox pinhole projectors. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Cathy Barker watches the eclipse using a colander. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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