South Floridians take in rare solar eclipse

MIAMI (WSVN) - As a total solar eclipse darkened entire portions of the United States, South Floridians enjoyed a chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime celestial sight.

Parts of 14 states were in the path of totality, meaning total darkness, as the moon completely covered the sun. The 70-mile wide path began as far west as Oregon at 1:19 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, then headed to America’s heartland – Lincoln, Nebraska – at 2:02 p.m. before it ended at Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:46 p.m.

South Floridians had a clear view of the partial eclipse, which began at 1:26 p.m. At its peak, the moon covered 78 percent of the sun, by around 2:58 p.m.

“It’s like a moon shape, almost like a half moon,” said one spectator as he wore approved glasses.

“From Miami, we’re going to see about 80 percent coverage,” said Lindsay Bartholome, Director of Technology and Youth Development at the Frost Museum of Science in Downtown Miami. “This is the first time in 99 years where the moon has passed in front of the sun all across the U.S.”

Organizers were at capacity at the Frost Museum, Monday afternoon.

Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego, Science Curator of Astronomy at the Frost Museum noted what made the event so special. “It’s going across the USA, all the way from the West Coast to the East Coast.”

Students, faculty and staff at higher learning institutions, from Broward College to Florida International University, had the opportunity to experience the phenomenon in a special and safe way.

“I think it’s pretty cool that Broward College is actually having it here, so I don’t really have to go anywhere,” said Broward College student Claudy Derize. “I can just come up to the observatory and watch it.”

Public schools across South Florida also experienced the solar eclipse.

“The fact that our kids can say, ‘Hey, I was in high school when this occurred,’ and this is something they can talk about for many, many years,” said Booker T. Washington High School principal William Aristide.

Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho also joined students at Booker T. Washington for the ultimate teachable moment. “Kids are having a great time, the teachers are using it as an educational opportunity and everybody’s being careful about it,” he said.

Students flooded the courtyard after the last bell rang to see the eclipse while others saw the show at Carver Middle School and the Miami Children’s Museum.

Doctors advised spectators to avoid looking directly at the sun during the eclipse without wearing special eyewear. Regular sunglasses do not provide sufficient protection. For those who were not able to nab a pair of solar eclipse glasses, NASA published a do-it-yourself method here.

The historic event collided with the first day of school in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties. School officials allowed students an excused absence because of it.

One parent who pulled his children out of school for the momentous day said it’s worth it. “It’s the first day of school, and you know what? We cannot miss this,” he said. “It’s very important. It’s historical for us.”

It took about an hour for the moon to move completely past the sun.

“I think an eclipse like this will catch people’s attention,” said Susan Barnette, the director at Buehler Planetarium and Observatory, “and hopefully, get them to appreciate science more. Not everyone is a science nerd, but everyone can be a science fan.”

South Florida will have its own eclipse where we’ll be in totality in about 2045.

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