Solar Eclipse Provides Astronomical Show

St. Petersburg siblings Tzevi, 8, left, and his sister Tovah, 4, view the partial solar eclipse through their special glasses with their mom on Monday, August 21 while sitting on a bench at Gulfport Municipal Beach. Nearby, their dad tried unsuccessfully to project the partly obscured sun on a white paper on the ground via a telescope. Tzevi described what he saw through the glasses “as a crescent that’s orange.” Added Tovah: “If I turn my head, it looks like a smile.” Photo by Helen J. Simon.

The astronomical show was about three hours long and to view it onlookers were using items like special glasses, welding helmets, cardboard boxes, colanders, trees, telescopes, cell phones and telephoto camera lenses with high-tech filters.

The solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, in the Tampa Bay area was a hit.

“I went outside from work right at peak time with my little glasses to watch the eclipse,” said Lori Roach, administrative assistant to the city manager of Gulfport. “I happened to glance down at the ground when I was taking off my glasses and I saw all of these little crescents. And, I thought, that is the neatest thing!”

Across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, a narrow path of totality that was about 65 miles wide spanned 2,600 miles from coast to coast. The rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse along with Central America and portions of South America, according to the Associated Press news wire service.

The moon and sun combined to smile down on planet Earth on August 21, 2017 during a total solar eclipse that traveled North America in a 65-mile-wide swath from Oregon to South Carolina. Outside the path of totality, only a portion of the moon covered the sun. In this composite image, nine photos of the eclipse taken at Ft. DeSoto, Florida are shown, right to left, from beginning to end with the peak in the middle at the top. The local version, located outside the geographic path of totality, was from approximately 1:17 p.m. to 4:13 p.m. with the 81 percent peak occurring at about 2:50 p.m. Composite by Debbie Wolfe.

Locally, the shadow of the moon covered about 81 percent of the sun at the peak of the eclipse, which occurred at about 2:50 p.m. The entire event was from approximately 1:17 p.m. to 4:13 p.m., according to local weather reports.

“I was expecting to be darker,” said a park ranger at Ft. DeSoto in southern Pinellas County.

At the peak, daylight dimmed a bit to a light shade of gray, as experienced by this reporter at the park. The temperature dropped a few degrees and a refreshing light breeze came in off the water of the Gulf of Mexico. After about five minutes, when the light was bright again, water birds resumed their chirping, mullet were jumping and tiny black flying bugs began biting as if it was early morning once again. The temperature also returned to normal.

The eclipse is “spectacular,” said Dr. Lukas Stiegmeier of Zurich, Switzerland. “It’s interesting to watch.” He, his daughter and a friend stopped by Ft. DeSoto’s east beach to experience the last few seconds of the eclipse through a high-powered camera lens being used by a Gabber journalist.

According to the Associated Press, “NASA reported 4.4 million people were watching its TV coverage, the biggest livestream event in the space agency’s history.”

Larry Haney of St. Petersburg, left, views the eclipse through his welder’s mask, which he said he was using since he didn’t have eclipse glasses. He and his wife Fran, right, said this solar event wasn’t as exciting as a full eclipse they had seen in Ohio in the early 1990s, but that their daughter was in Tennessee viewing the eclipse in its totality. Photo by Helen J. Simon.

The solar eclipse served to bring people together to share a common event. It was the first one to occur in heavily populated areas during the era of social media, according to the Associated Press.

Alex Young, a NASA solar physicist quoted by the Associated Press, said “the last time earthlings had a connection like this to the heavens was during man’s first flight to the moon on Apollo 8 in 1968. The first, famous Earthrise photo came from that mission, and like this eclipse, showed us ‘we are part of something bigger.’”

According to the Associated Press, “the last coast-to-coast eclipse in the U.S. was in 1918, when Woodrow Wilson was president. The last total solar eclipse was in 1979, but only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness. The next total eclipse will be in 2024 and the next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.”

In 2024, “I’m going to video the whole eclipse even if I have to travel somewhere,” said Roach.

The Tampa Bay area will eventually get its shot in the path of totality during a solar eclipse – on August 12, 2045.

Gabber reader Bill O’Brien and his wife, Lisa Prather who is a chef, used a special tool of the trade to capture the eclipse Monday. This unique pattern of crescent-shapped eclipse shadows was created with a kitchen colander.


Three visitors from Switzerland joined Gabber photographer Debbie Wolfe at Ft. DeSoto and are pictured with her special solar eclipse camera outfit. Pictured from left, Walter Steiger from Lucerne, Dr. Lukas Stiegmeier and his daughter, Flavia Stiegmeier both from Zurich. Steiger, an airline pilot and Flavia Stiegmeier, a flight attendant, were on a layover in the area through Wednesday evening. The eclipse is “spectacular,” said Dr. Stiegmeier. Photo by Debbie Wolfe.


Lori Roach took a break from her post as the administrative assistant to Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly to view the eclipse on Monday. When she looked down, she noticed an unusual pattern in the shadows under an oak tree outside of Gulfport City Hall.


Andy Sheets, right, watches the eclipse through a pinhole in a Savoritz cracker box while Wayne Spates, left, views it through special eclipse glasses. The two men, both from Gulfport, were among a lively group celebrating the eclipse and drinking at Manatees on the Bay on Shore Boulevard. After taking a look at it through Spates’ glasses, Sheets admitted the view through his box wasn’t very good. Photo by Helen J. Simon.




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