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Solar eclipse used as a chance to appreciate science

Oct 03, 2017 10:00AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

John Perry lets the public view the eclipse through his telescope. (Ruth Hendricks/City Journals)

Gallery: Solar Eclipse [8 Images] Click any image to expand.

Many residents used the Aug. 21 solar eclipse to increase or enhance their knowledge of science. Salt Lake County libraries throughout the valley hosted eclipse-viewing parties from 10 a.m. until past noon.

The eclipse reached maximum coverage at 11:33 a.m. While Salt Lake county residents were not in the zone to see the total eclipse, the viewpoint here was 92 percent at fullest coverage.

“People were lined up at the doors of many branches before the libraries even opened,” said Kelsy Thompson, public relations coordinator for the library. She reported that Sandy alone had about 700 people attend. “I’d say between all 18 of our branches, we easily had a few thousand patrons attend and partake in the festivities.” 

The library branches gave out 3,000 pairs of viewing glasses on eclipse day alone, and had been distributing them, as available, before the event as well. “For those patrons who couldn’t acquire glasses, many of the branches also created pinhole viewers and cardboard viewers with solar film for patrons to watch the eclipse. We also had a full schedule of branch events leading up to Aug. 21,” said Thompson. 

These events included talks about the solar system at the Taylorsville branch, related storytime readings at various branches, crafts at the Whitmore branch, rocket launchings at Bingham Creek and a Lunar Tunes/Looney Tunes cartoon marathon at Bingham Creek.

Joakima Carr came to the West Jordan library viewing party with her son, 7-year-old Daisun, and daughter, 5-year-old Daiyana. Her baby, Dailuna, also came along to the party. Joakima laughed that several of her children had space-related names, one with “sun” and one with “luna.” Damon, the father, is a mechanical engineer and likes to promote science learning with the kids.

“I want to be an astronaut. I want to go to Jupiter,” said Daisun. He explained how Jupiter was the largest planet, and he talked about the storms on Mars.

Joakima had helped the kids build cardboard eclipse viewers. She had watched a video on YouTube to learn how to build them. 

Daisun was already learning about the phases of the moon in school. The family also recently watched the movie “The Martian” and had discussed living on Mars. The kids had used blocks at home to make stackable buildings and a satellite, inspired by the movie.

Joakima said the family has also gone to visit a space museum and that the kids enjoy anything with a space theme.

Retiree John Perry also came to the viewing party. Perry has been interested in space since the TV show “Star Trek” debuted. Perry came to the library grounds because there were no obstructions, and he could set up his telescope with a filter and camera attachment. He programmed the camera to take a photo every 40 seconds to document the movement of the moon across the sun. “It’s amazing to see the sun and moon both together at the same time,” he said.

Attendees at the party expressed appreciation that Perry let them look through his telescope. Perry enjoys taking photos of celestial events. He took 268 images when Mercury crossed the sun. Mercury and Venus are closer to the sun than our planet, so when they cross in between the Earth and the sun it’s called a transit. Mercury’s last transit was May 9, 2016.

Information from the county library website shows that the 2017 Great American Eclipse united most of the country in viewing it. CNN recently projected that about half the country (150 million people) watched some portion of the eclipse. This compares to 20 million people who watched the 2017 NBA Championship, and 111 million people who watched the Super Bowl this past February. 

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