On Monday, August 21, well over 100 people turned out on Quinsigamond Community College’s Fuller Center Lawn for the viewing of a rare, partial solar eclipse. While the path of totality (when the moon lines up perfectly and blocks the sun) was from Oregon to South Carolina, Massachusetts experienced a partial eclipse, with approximately 60 percent of the sun covered. The state last had a partial solar eclipse on Dec 25, 2000. The last total eclipse the United States experienced happened on Feb 26, 1979 and Massachusetts last had a total solar eclipse on March 7, 1970.
While solar eclipses are less common than lunar eclipses, this solar eclipse was particularly special… it was the first transcontinental eclipse since 1918.
According to Lisa Antonelli, QCC Professor of Biology and a volunteer at the event, “This is a rarity,” she said before the eclipse. “We have wonderful equipment here to view a relatively uncommon astronomical event on campus. I’m excited myself.”
QCC Professor of Integrated Sciences, Andria Schwortz (an astronomer turned college professor) was on hand to answer questions, share her knowledge and help people view the solar eclipse safely.
“This was a partial eclipse from here in the Northeast, so at no point in time was it safe to look directly at the sun, nor through an unfiltered telescope or binoculars,” Ms. Schwortz said.
Attendees to the event were given the opportunity to view the eclipse through eclipse glasses, telescopes with solar filters and a sunspotter solar projection device. Many in attendance waited in line to view the phenomenon through the provided telescopes. Over a dozen QCC staff and student volunteers assisted Ms. Schwortz in answering questions, passing out solar eclipse glasses and making sure everyone had a good time.
QCC psychology student and amateur space enthusiast, Noelle Hemdal volunteered to help out at the event, acting as a docent; answering questions and assisting attendees in viewing the solar eclipse safely.
“I try to keep myself involved and improve the school community,” Ms. Hemdal said. “I really enjoy the community here. You always have someone around who shares similar interests. There’s a lot of comradery. It’s easy to talk to people, make connections and expand your school experience.”
QCC engineering student and PTK member Toby Ajayi was also one of the volunteers who spent the day helping out.
“This was a rare occurrence to see and it was exciting for me to see,” Mr. Ajayi said. “I love learning academically and socially. QCC is more like a family. It’s a lot more than a two year college.”
“I’m really happy QCC hosted this event,” Ms. Schwortz said, adding the next solar eclipse will be in 2024.