Berkeley Gets Inventive to Experience Obscured Total Eclipse

By Maya Ng-Yu

Millions of Americans strapped on their total solar eclipse viewing glasses and tilted their heads up to the sky as a band of complete darkness swept over the United States. 

On August 21, the moon slowly traveled between the sun and Earth until it perfectly blocked the sun, so only a ring of light remained. 

The total solar eclipse is the first in almost one hundred years to stretch coast to coast on American soil. From Oregon to South Carolina, many die-hard eclipse-chasers, excited students, and anxious astronomers gathered to the path of totality to witness the phenomenon. 

Berkeley High School student Mallika Hari planned six months in advance for her trip to view the eclipse in Salem, Oregon. During the eclipse, Hari first noticed flocks of birds flying one direction, then circling back the other way. The confused birds were the start of Hari’s first total solar eclipse experience. Next, she saw tree leaves reflect a “pinhole effect … a crescent-like shape of the sun on the sidewalk,” she described.

Once the moon completely blocked the sun, Hari witnessed the corona, or “halo around the moon,” and the temperature dropped along with the volume of the crowd. Voices stopped whispering, and there was no screaming or cheering until the eerie silence dissolved into the darkness. 

“[The eclipse] was a beautiful, mind-blowing, breathtaking, surprising, and suspenseful [event] to watch,” Hari said. 

Back in Berkeley, however, there was little to see of the eclipse, as clouds covered the entire sky. At the height of the eclipse in Berkeley, around 10:15 AM, the moon would have covered most of the sun and plunged the city into partial darkness, yet no significant change occurred. 

Many Berkeley residents livestreamed the total solar eclipse and watched as other cities turned dark at its peak. Scientific museums like the Lawrence Hall of Science and the Exploratorium also showed livestreams of the eclipse and held eclipse activities for the general public. 

Martin Rock, the Associate Director of Communications at the Exploratorium, said the museum displayed several different livestreams regarding the eclipse. Rock said there were telescope feeds and educational programs in English and Spanish for people to watch.

Additionally, the Kronos Quartet, a string ensemble, performed live music based on the telescope sonification of the total solar eclipse. Rock said, “It was such a great show — science and art, an opportunity to hear artists collaborating with a celestial event.” 

Out on the Exploratorium’s plaza, the crowd would gasp whenever the clouds parted and the partial eclipse peeked out, and many enjoyed the Bay Area’s 76 percent partial eclipse. 

Rock said the Exploratorium has been working on educational programs with NASA to give people access to the eclipse. The eclipse is “one of wonder, curiosity, and celebration. It’s an opportunity to get people excited about a scientific event, in and out of the museum,” Rock explained.

Rock estimated about four thousand people came to the Exploratorium to engage in eclipse-themed presentations, livestreams, solar viewers out on the plaza, and receive free eclipse glasses. 

The Lawrence Hall of Science also hosted many people of all ages, including families, kids, and students on the day of the eclipse. Adam Frost, Marketing Specialist at the Lawrence Hall of Science, said the museum opened early to invite guests to activities such as making pinhole viewers, interacting with a yard stick and marble demonstration about the distance from the Earth to the moon, and livestreams. 

Frost said, “It was really exciting. Even though we couldn’t see anything, people were really excited about it.” He explained that there was a livestream in the auditorium, which was packed with about three hundred community members, and, as the moon began to cover the sun, the crowd started to count down with enthusiasm and anticipation.

“I don’t think the weather dampened anybody’s spirits or energy,” Frost mentioned. 

Many early plans and spontaneous road trips brought families from all walks of life to the path of totality, but a number of people missed the chance.   However, several of those who did not get the wonderful opportunity to watch the once in a life time total solar eclipse of the sun, plan to pack their bags for the next eclipse to hit the United States of America in 2024.  

Take an inspiring adventure towards the path of totality in places like Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, Maine, New York, and New Brunswick, a coastal province of eastern Canada, for a surely out-of-this-world experience.