The last time I viewed a partial solar eclipse I was in the third grade and looked at it through some sort of odd contraption involving a toilet paper roll and parchment paper. Although the device wasn’t very sophisticated, it was still thrilling to get to view the sun in a way I’d never seen it before.
As a result, when I heard the Louisville Astronomical Society would be set up on October 23rd at the WF Miles Community Garden in Beckley Creek Park, I jumped at the chance to view a partial solar eclipse through much more sophisticated equipment.
When I arrived around 5:15 p.m., about 20 people were gathered around three telescopes and projectors set up by the society. Each was placed to provide a different view of the partial eclipse, which hadn’t yet started.
Immediately, Ken Alderson, the past president of the Louisville Astronomical Society and a solar system ambassador for NASA, greeted me. He took the time to explain the particulars of what allows an eclipse to occur.
“In the case of an eclipse, it is perfectly situated that the earth, sun and moon are geometrically set up in a way that it can cause an eclipse,” he said. “In the case of a solar eclipse, the moon is getting in between us and the sun.” Anderson explained that yesterday’s partial solar eclipse would cover about 40 percent of the sun at its peak.
As I had some time to kill before the eclipse started, I began chatting with others milling around. I ran into James Chen, who had only discovered the parks systems a couple of days ago, and he shared with me what he liked most about the Parklands of Floyds Fork.
“This park, when I first went through it, reminded me of my trips to Yellowstone,” said Chen. “It has a lot of variety to it — a lot of changes in topography, and it’s still nice and close to here in Louisville.”
During our conversation, members of the Astronomical Society began passing around special glasses that allowed you to look directly at the sun without damaging your eyes. Felicia Burba, a member of the society, did a great job explaining why this is so neat.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to see something you don’t get to see every day,” she said. “The solar eclipse is kind of that forbidden thing, because you can’t look at it directly — it’s the thrill of taking a bit of technology and creativity to see something you never get to see.”
Burba was right — viewing the partial solar eclipse by looking directly at the sun was an amazing opportunity. At 5:45, the eclipse was clearly visible and is a sight I’ll never forget.
If you missed this particular eclipse, don’t fret. Alderson explained the Astronomical Louisville Society hosts special viewings for every lunar and solar eclipse that occurs.
The next time one comes around, I recommend you check and see if they’re happening at The Parklands. Trust me, it’s much cooler looking through their high-tech equipment than through a roll of toilet paper.