Students flooded the Merced College quad with their eyes turned towards the heavens on Monday, Aug. 21.
Professor Robert Davies and his astronomy class hoped random students would take advantage of their booth as they spent the morning setting up various equipment to view and document the rare solar eclipse.
As the height of the eclipse neared at 10:15 a.m., the lines to use the provided equipment ran a few hundred students deep. The crowd was so impressive that multiple staff members commented they’d never seen so many students in the quad.
“The turnout definitely exceeded my expectations,” Davies said. “If we had it to do over again, we’d talked about making it a big community event. But with it falling on the second week of school and parking already being an issue, we decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring in more people.
“It was a great turnout of students and staff, though. I’m really pleased how many took advantage of it.”
Davies and company provided a number of ways for spectators to enjoy the celestial event. The Coronado solar telescope allowed people to see the eclipse through a cell phone. There were also a pair of Celestron telescopes that projected the sun’s image onto a poster board and projection screen. Davies also had a handful of solar eclipse glasses that students and staff took turns using.
“It’s always neat to see everyone have that same look of awe when they watch something like this,” Davies said. “Some of the staff brought their kids to enjoy it, which was cool for them. But whether it’s 9-year-old kids or students or professors, everyone looks at it with a child-like wonder.”
The library reported that 75 students took advantage of their pinhole-camera-making station and dozens of other students joined the gathering with their own glasses.
“The media did a great job advertising this event, so the students came with a lot of information and asked a lot of good questions,” Davies said. “I think the biggest confusion was they thought they’d see a 100-percent blackout. We only got an 80-percent view here in Merced, but it’s still a neat event that we’ll only get to experience a couple times in our lifetimes.”