Photo by Aislinn Menke
The solar eclipse was the hottest topic at East even above everyone’s technology troubles. Whether it was about getting an excused absence from school or the hunt for the special eclipse glasses, every student was talking about it. But why was this such a big deal? The moon was just going in front of the sun for a couple of minutes. To find out more about the solar eclipse and relive my glory days of digging up dinosaur bones and watching people ride a bike across a wire, I decided to visit the place where science is made fun: Science City.
Science City held an “Experience the Eclipse” event on Monday, Aug. 21. There were scheduled eclipse-themed activities ranging from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., including a presentation in the planetarium every half hour. Although I didn’t get to experience all of the festivities, I caught the 3:30 presentation after viewing the eclipse from home.
It is clear to me now that there is a big difference between 99% of the sun being obscured and 100% of the sun being obscured. I found myself despising the big, fluffy clouds in the sky that I usually thank in August for providing some shade, and the almost-eclipse that I saw from my backyard seemed to last less than the three minutes I was promised.
Thankfully, the planetarium presentation made up for what I missed out on in my viewing experience. Walking into the planetarium at Science City, it was difficult not to be in awe; the giant dome displayed a 360° view of a clear, cloudless sky that seemed to transport me to a quiet place far from civilization.
Shortly after making myself comfortable in one of the movie-theater-esque chairs, I was gazing up at my own incredible view of totality. The lights dimmed when the moon covered the sun, making it feel less like an animation and more like the real eclipse. Some of the bright dots in the sky were revealed to be Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Venus, the planets that were sometimes visible during the eclipse. The Science City employee explained, with her soothing Australian accent, some of the effects of totality I heard about on the news but didn’t see earlier that day. Some of these were the ring of light peeking out from behind the moon called the corona and the rays of light that shot out in certain places called Baily’s Beads. It also displayed Leo, Scorpius, and some of the other constellations that could be seen more easily than usual during the eclipse.
This was the first time in 200 years that the midwest saw a total solar eclipse. Because of the way the angles of the moon’s and Earth’s rotations must perfectly align to create this phenomenon, we won’t see it again for another 200 years. Waiting so long for something that lasts about three minutes has a way of creating major anticipation, which is exactly what happened at East.
The planetarium presentation for “Experience the Eclipse” at Science City was a good way to not only view the total solar eclipse, but also to learn more about it. As I laid back in my reclined chair at the planetarium, I was able to fully experience what everyone was so excited about that I didn’t see in person.
I wish that I had gone for more of the activities since I didn’t get the whole Science City experience from the one presentation. I had forgotten that the planetarium was separate from the rest of the science center, so I didn’t get my chance at reminiscently exploring the whole facility. Although I made the mistake of not going for the entire day, I feel lucky to have been able to experience—well, kind of experience—this rare event at Science.