HOUSTON - Students, faculty and staff at the University of Houston took the time out of the first day of school to marvel at the sky and take part in celebrating the partial solar eclipse in Houston.
“It’s awesome, it’s like magical here,” said Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston. “We have over 44,000 students here on the first day of classes and you can see hundreds and hundreds of students are out here, very exciting.”
“We wanted to see the solar eclipse,” said Susan Garfield, a retired science teacher.
She said she had looked into traveling to the line of totality, but decided to stay in Houston instead and go to UH.
“I researched it, we looked a lot of different places and it just looked like it was going to be crazy, with people and traffic and trying to find places to stay, so we thought this really is a better option,” explained Garfield.
The Astronomy Society along with the physics department at the University of Houston offered tours, glasses, pinhole devices and opportunities to see the solar eclipse through its big telescope for students, staff and community members.
“Today is a big day because It gives us a chance to open up our observatory to the public and to the students on campus,” said Andrew Renshaw, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Houston.
The department refurbished the telescope just in time for the solar eclipse.
“We want to let people know we’re doing this type of science, and we’re not only viewing the solar eclipse, we’re also opening the observatory to nighttime viewing around the year and open it to the public,” said Renshaw. “We want to promote greater science in the department outside of astronomy like biophysics, particle physics; we have a lot going on and it’s a time to showcase all of that.”
Monday was the first time in nearly a hundred years that the solar eclipse happened from coast to coast.
“If you can get the chance to see the total eclipse, and actually see totality, it is absolutely the Super Bowl of astronomy,” said Renshaw.
Even though Houston was not in the path of totality, people were able to see a partial eclipse with about 67 percent of the sun’s surface covered, according to the University of Houston.
“It’s awesome. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a solar eclipse,” said 10-year-old Will Lockhart. “There is a little disc missing so it’s not a perfect circle, it looks really cool.”
Will’s mother was equally excited and brought her kids with her to the University of Houston to make sure they were viewing the eclipse safely.
“I was excited for them to come. I was excited that they were having things here on staff,” said Florence Snively. “I was also concerned that they would be home by themselves and staring at the sun.”
The eclipse started around 11:45 a.m. and lasted until around 2:45 p.m. with its maximum reached at around 1:16 p.m., according to UH.
“It kind of looks like a crescent moon,” said Hafsa Salim as she and her friends took turns using glasses to look up at the sun. “I think it’s really cool, because the last time this happened it was before I was born, so it’s really iconic. And it’s cool UH is promoting such an awareness for such a big thing like the solar eclipse.”
All through the day, hundreds lined up outside the observatory and in the grassy area between the Science and Research 1 building and Science and Engineering Classroom Building, to see the partial eclipse through telescopes with solar filters, pinhole projection assemblies for viewing the sun and safety goggles.
“I really, really wanted to get a look at the eclipse,” said Sabrina Shaikh, who is a sophomore biology major. “I’ve been waiting, keeping track of the days.”
“This is my first eclipse, so I’m really excited for that,” said Fre’etta Brooks, Astronomy Society president at the University of Houston.
Many have expressed how this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, but that might not be the case for some people, according to Renshaw.
“I hate that people say it’s once-in-a-life time opportunity, because if you live six or eight more years you’re going to see another one,” said Renshaw. “But this is maybe a twice in a lifetime opportunity, something you really want to take advantage of.”
The last total solar eclipse was in 1979 and the next U.S. total eclipse, visible from Texas to Maine, is April 8, 2024.
“Well there’s different types of eclipses and they don’t happen that often, so just being able to view one is really special and it gives you a real sense of how small you are in the universe,” said Garfield.
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