Monday, Aug. 21, the moon’s shadow traveled across the United States, spanning from Oregon to South Carolina.
A total solar eclipse like this occurs when the sun, moon and earth align. The moon passes between the sun and the earth, blocking the light from the sun and casting a shadow on earth. This occurs only because the sun and moon’s sizes relative to their distances from earth make them appear to be the same size in the sky, astronomy teacher Greg Heard said.
As the moon crosses the sun, it appears to be taking bites out of it. This phase of the eclipse is called contact. During this time, the sun appears to get smaller and smaller, as it reaches the shape of a crescent moon. The sky also gradually grows darker, as if someone were to be dimming the lights. Right before totality, the sun is barely visible.
During a total solar eclipse there is a short amount of time where the sun is completely covered by the moon called totality. During totality, the moon looks like a black glowing circle in the sky. This glowing is the sun’s corona, or its atmosphere, which is not visible due to the light of the sun. Once the moon blocks the sun’s light, the gases from the corona become visible. This is also known as the “diamond ring effect” because only a small band of light is visible around the moon.
Heard, also a physics teacher, said physics is essential to predicting the eclipse because scientists need to “understand the motions of the three celestial bodies involved.”
Totality in Webster Groves lasted around one minute and 17 seconds, as timed by Heard. After 10 years of teaching astronomy, Heard finally got to see a total eclipse. He was “blown away. Pictures don’t do it justice.” It did not get as dark as he expected, and which he says is because the sun’s atmosphere was still light. The sky grew darker and lit up hues of pink, purple, and orange, like during a sunset.
Heard was not the only one from the school community wowed by the eclipse. Junior Christian Ragean’s experience was not at all what he expected.
“The sky was more colorful than most pictures of the eclipse show, and the eclipse itself was a lot more surreal-feeling and alien like than I thought it would be,” Ragean said. “It was absolutely breathtaking and I would definitely pay to travel to the next place that has a solar eclipse in my lifetime.”
Some students did have the opportunity to travel for this unique event, including sophomore Katka Trachtova, who drove south for several hours to get an extra minute of totality, which she said was “definitely worth missing school,” and helped her forget about the “already mounting stress of school.”
Before the eclipse, Tractova’s expectations were low.
“Honestly, the hour it took for full coverage wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, but totality was breathtaking. I loved how dark it got and how a sunset appeared all around the horizon..It made me realize how lucky I was to see it, because it really was something I’ll most likely never see again,” Trachtova said.
Senior Connie Rhodes felt her sleep schedule was challenged during the eclipse. “It was odd because of how it got darker and cooler, but it was only 2 p.m, and it felt like it could have been 8 p.m or so after the sunset, but it wasn’t. Part of me was like is it time to go to bed soon, but the other half of me was like it’s almost 2 p.m.”
Despite Rhode’s temporarily distorted sense of bedtime, she thought the eclipse was, “so cool,” “amazing,” and a “breathtaking experience.” Rhodes “just enjoyed the moment looking at the eclipse, until it was over.”
One added benefit of the eclipse was a brief break from the otherwise blazing heat that day.
Junior Zoe Castro, who watched from the Galleria parking lot said, “I didn’t realize the temperature would change so significantly. When the moon was moving over the sun, I was sweating, but during totality I wasn’t sweating anymore.”
Castro expressed her gratitude for this opportunity. “ The eclipse made me feel fortunate because I am lucky I got to experience this storytelling event,” she said
Senior Mitchell Lazarow watched the eclipse at school, and was thankful he was “able to share it with all of [his] friends,” and witness “the awe that washed over all of us.”
Lazarow expressed similar sentiments to others who witnessed the eclipse. “You feel very humble to be able to experience this because eclipses won’t be around forever, because the moon is moving further away and this opportunity to be born just right in the right window of time, and to be able to be located in the path of totality is incredible,” he said.
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