Elon turns out for the solar eclipse — and so do the clouds
Crowds gathered around Elon's campus to take in the partial eclipse Monday afternoon, but miss out on a peek at the peak coverage as clouds roll in.
Hundreds of members of the Elon University community stared skyward Monday afternoon, watching intently with cheers, "ooohs" and "ahhhs" as the region prepared to experience a nearly total eclipse for the first time in decades.
But as enthusiasm built in front of Inman Admissions Welcome Center where the largest crowd had gathered, so did the cloud cover at the peak of the eclipse with the moon covering 93 percent of the sun. The skies dimmed, partly from the eclipse and partly from the lowhanging clouds.
"Apparently cloud cover is not ideal for eclipse viewing," said a joking Dan Reis, senior instructional technologist with Teaching and Learning Technologies.
Using equipment from Elon's Maker Hub, Reis created a wooden plate with holes drilled through it in the shape of the Elon "E." The idea is that small images of the eclipsed sun would project through each hole in the shape of Elon's iconic "E," but the sun was never able to shine through bright enough.
Crowds across the country turned out along the eclipse's "path of totality" as the shadow of the moon made its way across the continent, moving southeast from Oregon through Charleston, S.C. It was the first time since February 1979 that a total solar eclipse was visible from the contiguous United States, though Elon and North Carolina have experienced partial eclipses since then. The last eclipse to cross the country from coast to coast was in 1918, and the next one with a path through the United States occurs in 2024.
For Eric Peterson and his father, Tom, the astronomic event coincided with a visit to Elon University from their home in Medfield, Massachusetts. Eric is a senior in high school this fall, and the father-son duo decided to extend a campus visit on Friday through the weekend to take in the eclipse.
Eric had his camera trained on the sun to capture the eclipse, and was able to snap multiple photos as the moon moved in front of the sun before the clouds obscured the view. "It's disappointing that we weren't able to see the peak eclipse," Eric Peterson said. "But we've had a great visit, and I love the campus."
Elon had purchased 1,600 pairs of eclipse glasses, with more than 100 of those donated to Early Middle College at Alamance Community College and the remainder distributed either at Belk Library or on Monday following the community picnic for faculty and staff. People began gathering around campus and in front of Inman shortly after 2 p.m., with the peak eclipse scheduled for 2:43 p.m.
The moon covered about three-fourths of the sun before cloud cover began settling in, and breaks in the cloud with about 20 minutes to go before the peak elicited cheers from those gathered around and staring upward.
Monday marked Thida Kim's first day on campus as a first-year student. A native of Cambodia, she hadn't been inundated by the media coverage leading up to Monday's eclipse and had forgotten that it was taking place on the day she arrived on campus to start her Elon career. "I'm so glad I'm here now so that I can catch at least some of the eclipse. It's pretty amazing," Kim said. "I had only seen pictures of it before."