The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday June 27th

A Solar eclipse of the heart crosses Chapel Hill's sky

On Monday, 93 percent of the sun was covered up by the first total eclipse over the U.S. since 1979.
Buy Photos On Monday, 93 percent of the sun was covered up by the first total eclipse over the U.S. since 1979.

Thousands gathered at Morehead Planetarium, where a viewing party was held for the first total eclipse over the United States since 1979.  

Chapel Hill experienced a partial eclipse, according to NASA. The moon covered 93 percent of the sun at 2:43 p.m. The event, which lasted from 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., was a part of 50 different viewing parties for the public held at various locations throughout North and South Carolina.   

Molly Molpus, communications manager at Morehead Planetarium, helped organize and plan the event, which was funded by a grant received from the North Carolina Space Program through NASA. 

“They [North Carolina Space Program] put together kits of activities, they trained the educators at the various venues," Molpus said. "We’ve been planning this for about a year actively, although we’ve had an educator excited about it since 1998." 

A solar eclipse does not have a real major effect on Earth, but can have an impact on people, said Edo Berger, professor of Astronomy and director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard University. 

"The fact that it’s in the middle of the day and will be as dark as it would at night," Berger said. "The fact that we can see, if you’re in the path of totality, you can see the corona of the sun, which we can’t see because the rest of the sun is so bright.”

More eclipses have occurred since the 1970's; however, there was no plausible way for a person to have seen them, Berger said.

"Different eclipses can be viewed in different parts of the world, and so this is one that happens to be where the path of totality, where you see complete obscuration of the sun by the moon, is moving across North America,” Berger said.

Activities on UNC's campus included a live stream of the path of totality of the eclipse provided by NASA,  hands-on activities and a pre-eclipse presentation inside the main theater.   

At the live stream, Chapel Hill local Rowan Marshall said there was NASA footage of Jefferson City, Missouri going into totality.

"And they (people in Jefferson City) were just standing there, it was light and then suddenly the light goes out and you can see the light around the moon," Marshall said. "It was so sudden you just aren't expecting it to be like that."

The pre-eclipse presentation sold out, and welcomed 1000 people to learn more about this astronomical event.  

There were multiple safe methods to view the sun directly and indirectly. UNC seniors Sarah Bigelow and Summer Travis used an indirect solar viewer and a pair of goggles at the viewing party.  

Chapel Hill local Anna Waller said she loved that she chose to come to the planetarium viewing party.   

“It’s really cool and it’s really interesting how they have so many different ways set up to look at it," Waller said. "Of course we have the glasses, but then in the (Morehead Planetarium) Center they have a couple of different ways to view it without glasses where it does projections and one of them is a bunch of mirrors and its big enough to see sun spots and see the shadows cover up the sun spots." 

Jason Adkins, a first-year at UNC, said he could tell a notable difference in the temperature.

“We’ve been staying over here and we can tell a difference in the shade and it is actually starting to feel a little cooler,” Adkins said. 

Molpus said that although the totality was only about 93 percent in Chapel Hill, it didn't take away from the wonder of the experience.

“This is one of the most major astronomical events that’s happened in most people’s lifetimes,” she said.   


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