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GBO Eclipse Party ~ one for the record books

More than 2,000 people gathered at the Green Bank Observatory Monday to participate in the Eclipse Party. Above, GBO employee Sherry McCarty helps a viewer see the eclipse through a telescope. S. Stewart photo

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

The Earth has made 99 rotations around the sun since the last time a total solar eclipse crossed the United States.

In a path roughly similar to that of the June 8, 1918 total solar eclipse, the moon yet again took a path in front of the sun on August 21, 2017. A path that could be seen from everywhere in the United States.

To celebrate the phenomena, more than 2,000 people gathered at the Green Bank Observatory for that facility’s Eclipse Party.

In a day filled with activities, tours and educational videos, youngsters, teens and adults came together to experience the once-in-a-lifetime event.

Visitors sought out every last inch of shade on the lawns of the observatory buildings and waited for the eclipse to happen as they made new friends with fellow party attendees.

Green Bank residents Bruce and Freda McKean sat near a couple from Atlanta, Georgia, and quickly became “new best friends,” with them. It wasn’t hard to find new friends or even connect with former acquaintances.

While the eclipse was visible all across the nation, people flocked to the observatory for many reasons – to experience the eclipse at a renowned science center, to take part in activities included with the viewing or because there was food.

Patty Bryant, of Arizona and Silver Creek, is a former employee of the observatory – a secretary for three years in the 1960s – Bryant returns to the county each summer and decided to return to her old stomping grounds for the viewing.

Bryant was joined by Jim and Scottie Weiss, of Elkins, who made the trip because the observatory offered a link to coverage by NASA.

“We watched the program that NASA put out on C-Span, and they were talking about how they were following [the eclipse] across the nation, and I figured this was one of the sites involved in that,” Scott said. “It’s all linked up. Also, if you have a question, where better to be than a place where they will more than likely know the answer.”

Along with visitors from outside the county and state, many locals joined in on the party.

Judy Jackson, of Marlinton, said she was attracted by all the publicity and thought it would be fun to experience the eclipse at the observatory.

Also among the visitors were students from Highland County Schools, who spent the first day back from summer vacation on the field trip of a lifetime.

To enhance the viewing experience, observatory employees helped visitors get a larger than life view of the eclipse through telescopes.

While the event wasn’t fully engulfed in darkness, the eclipse was the only thing that darkened the day as the moon covered 90 percent of the sun.

Regardless of the reason they chose the observatory for viewing the eclipse, the group had one thing in common – a good time was had by all.

Visitors were encouraged to keep their special solar eclipse glasses for the next partial eclipse which will take place in 2024.

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