Kent State Students, Faculty and Staff View the Solar Eclipse

Using protective glasses, cell phones and the occasional cardboard box, Kent State University students, faculty and staff gathered outside Monday afternoon to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse. 

About 80 to 85 percent of the total solar eclipse was visible from campus, with the peak viewing time at approximately 2:30 p.m.

A group of about 200 gathered on the commons outside the Kent Student Center to sky-watch for the event, being called “the Great American Eclipse,” because it could only be viewed from the United States.

The phenomenon last occurred in the U.S. in 1979, and will happen again in 2024.

Wearing a blue t-shirt that read “Science is real,” graduate bio-chemistry student Nick Penman, 35, of Akron, secured his spot on the commons about 1 p.m. Monday to watch as the moon began to shift in front of the sun.

Penman, a self-professed science geek, said he wasn’t sure he would be able to view the eclipse until two days ago when his father presented him with a pair of eclipse viewing glasses he had purchased from an online purveyor.

The glasses protect the eye’s retina from damage while viewing the eclipse.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s not often that we get visual proof that we actually revolve around the sun. I don’t know how you can doubt proof like this.”

Penman said he was excited for the solar eclipse coming in 2024. “We’re supposed to be in the path of totality.”

Jimmy Fetzer, facilities manager for the Kent State Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center (MAC Center), was using his cell phone with a pair of eclipse glasses to take photos of the sun, which showed up as just a crescent as the moon orbited in front of it, blocking much of its brightness.

While many gazers shared pairs of eclipse glasses, others made due with more old-school methods.

Roommates Carrie George, 19, of Bel Air, Maryland, and Amrita Datta, 20, of Calcutta, India, created a homemade viewer using a piece of cardboard with a hold punched into the center A. Holding the board up to the sun, George showed how the light coming through the small hold refracted and appeared on the concrete below in a mirror image of the crescent-shaped sun.

The junior communication and information majors said they enjoy watching solar system events, and previously have watched the sky to observe sightings of Jupiter, Mars, the Northern Lights, and the Super Moon that coincided with a lunar eclipse, which took place on George’s birthday: Sept. 28, 2015.

“We really like weird space stuff,” George said.

The moon’s overshadowing of the sun cast a twilight-style dim in the afternoon sky.    

“It’s so interesting,” said Datta, noting that she is not able to see solar system phenomena as clearly from her home in Calcutta.

University Provost Todd Diacon purchased several pair of eclipse glasses, which members of his staff were sharing to take part in the observation.

“I remember the last one from 1979,” Diacon said.

Graduate student in communication studies Nahla Bendefaa, 24, of Tangier, Morocco, said the last eclipse she viewed was as a child in Morocco in 1999.

“We were at the beach and there was a big watch party,” she said.

University librarian Cindy Kristof said she saw a partial eclipse in 1994 while a student at Ohio State University. Because she wasn’t sure her viewing glasses from then were still safe to use, Kristof used a paper clip to punched a tiny hole in a cardboard box, which acted as a lens projecting the crescent image of the sun on the inside of the box.

Not all students were able to take part in the viewing. Incoming freshman Surya Swami discovered several weeks ago that his orientation would coincide with Monday's solar eclipse, but he had not been able to secure a pair of glasses. The 18-year-old business major from Oman wasn't sure his schedule would allow time for viewing. His father, Suresh Swami, said he witnessed his first eclipse about 30 years ago in his hometown of Kerala, India. The elder Swami was a university student at the time, when the popular way to view the eclipse was by using a bucket of discolored water.

Although darkened, the water retained its reflective powers, making its surface the perfect reflecting pool on which to view the image of the eclipsed sun. The pair said they hoped to at least watch the event on television, Surya Swami said.

Many were scrambling to find the needed eyewear for eclipse watching; viewing without protective glasses can cause permanent damage to the eye’s retina.

Emma Simmerman, a clerk at the University Book Store inside the Kent Student Center, said several customers had stopped in asking for eclipse glasses but the bookstore was not selling them.

Simmerman said she and other clerks were referring customers to public libraries, many of which were giving away the glasses.

UPDATED: Thursday, December 08, 2022 10:49 PM
Lisa Abraham