Students experience 100 percent totality

Cassie Buchman, Editor-in-Chief

Shirley Mensah, a junior geology major, is only 20, but she has already been to two eclipses on two different continents.

Back home in Ghana, she was able to see an eclipse in 2006 and on Monday, she was one of eight students who took a trip down to Chester to experience 100 percent totality.

“It’s an experience you wouldn’t want to miss out on,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m not missing out on this.’”

In Chester, getting to see other people’s reaction to watching the eclipse for the first time made Mensah happy. “I just stood back and saw everyone…even how the animals were behaving —they thought it was night time, the crickets (were) chirping…It was really cool,” she said.

Amanda Kiessling, a sophomore foreign languages major, said before the eclipse, birds were chirping, but they stopped when it got dark.

“When the moon covered the sun it got all dark, like you’re wearing sunglasses,” she said.

Though it got dark in Chester, Mensah said a halo from the moon from the sun gave the area a little light.

“(It was) kind of like twilight,” Mensah said.

Kiessling became interested in going to be in an area with 100 percent totality after taking an astronomy class with astronomy professor David Linton and went to Chester with students.

“He was really excited about it coming up and it got me interested in it,” she said. “You don’t get to see this sort of thing a lot.”

Physics professor Don Pakey, who met up with the students in Chester, said he could hear people being emotional during the eclipse, with some even saying they got goosebumps from it.

Along with the sun’s Corona, planets such as Venus and Jupiter, along with the star Regulus, were visible in Chester.

“They were super bright,” Kiessling said. “Kind of like a diamond.”

The students left at 7 a.m. and got to Chester around 11:30 a.m., right on time to see the first touch of the moon to the sun.

Pakey said Chester was not crowded, though there was some heavy traffic an hour away from there, from people traveling to Carbondale.

One hundred percent totality lasted for about two minutes and 40 seconds.

“A lot of people were around, watching the crescent sun get smaller and smaller, then it was totality and everyone could take their eclipse glasses off,” Pakey said.

Pakey said though it was a hot day, it really cooled down during the eclipse.

“To actually see the solar eclipse is something (students) will not be able to reproduce. To actually see it with the naked eye as opposed to just studying it —they always remember that,” Pakey said.

Along with a memorable experience, the trip to Chester also gave Mensah a new hobby.

“Now, I’m going to make it a mission to track down eclipses,” Mensah said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]