First day of classes provides opportunity to view solar phenomenon, 'together'

MONT ALTO, PA. ― Clear blue skies provided the perfect opportunity for a Solar Eclipse Viewing Party on the Quad at Penn State Mont Alto on Aug. 21.

“It is a great opportunity that we can witness this together across campus and share a very rare, very beautiful phenomenon,” said Michael Doncheski, Penn State Mont Alto chief academic officer.

The event was organized and run by Kimberly Herrmann, assistant professor of physics and astronomy. She requested 400 safe “eclipse glasses” from the Student Activities Committee for students and community members and made several telescopes available manned by her family members and friends. She also offered sugar cookies and, to keep the action going, even launched soda-bottle rockets.

Herrmann circulated throughout the crowd during the event, checking on details and answering questions. She was pleased with the turnout.

“It is fantastic! It is absolutely amazing that so many people are here, and it is a great unifying experience to have across the country,” she said with a broad smile. “It is a privilege to experience this event with the Mont Alto community.”

The eclipse began at approximately 1:15 p.m., was close to totality (about 80 percent) at 2:35 p.m., and ended at around 4 p.m.

Freshmen Michael Fitch and Joshua Shinn watched the eclipse together.

“I think it’s great. It is really cool to watch,” said Fitch. “I definitely never saw anything like it, that’s for sure. It is cool especially since it is the first day of school. It is very welcoming.”

Gabriella Hitz, a 2014 alumna, added, “God’s creation is amazing and it is great for us to observe it.”

Senior Seth Miller, an astronomy major and former Penn State Mont Alto student, assisted with one of the telescopes for Herrmann ― one of his former Mont Alto instructors.

“When I came here, I either wanted to be an engineer or an astronomer,” he said. “I decided to be an astronomer.”

“I like helping other people understand the eclipse and telling them about it. That is the most fun I have being an astronomer.”

More photos of the event are available here.

Last Updated August 22, 2017