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COSMIC DANCE: OU experiences magical lure of solar eclipse

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
An attendee watching the eclipse through a telescope equipped with a solar filter on Aug. 21 at the University of Oklahoma.
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NORMAN, Okla. – “Once in a lifetime.”

That is how Norman resident Lynn Weber described her experience Monday at the University of Oklahoma Great American Solar Eclipse watch party held on the grass on the campus's South Oval.

Arranged by OU's Lunar Sooners, a registered student organization, the event was held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

During Monday's event, the Lunar Sooners handed out 500 certified solar glasses to the hundreds of attendees who were patiently waiting to enjoy the event.

Students, staff, single people, families, friends and the plain "just curious" gathered together to collectively enjoy this amazing celestial event.

Even if it was difficult to have an exact number of the total of curious who stopped by, Evan Rich, the president of the Lunar Sooners estimated over 1,000 people enjoyed the eclipse on the South Oval.

According to Rich, also a graduate student in astronomy at the University of Oklahoma, 82 percent of the of the total eclipse was visible from Norman.

Monday's solar eclipse is considered the largest one to cover the United States, from coast-to-coast, since the total eclipse on June 8, 1918.

“We have pretty good coverage,” Rich told Red Dirt Report.

In addition, three solar telescopes were made available to eclipse viewers, courtesy of the Lunar Sooners.

This included two Celestron Nexstar, 2032 mm focal length equipped with a solar filter and one Orion SpaceProbe with a 700 mm focal length destined to a live online follow-up of the eclipse.

And also, were available, several pinhole boxes made from simple cereal boxes to larger boxes up to five feet long.

“We have all the proper equipment to do it safely,” said John Tobin, a professor astronomy at OU.

Evan Rich, the president of the Lunar Sooners, watching the eclipse via a pinhole viewer on Aug. 21 at the University of Oklahoma. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

It was the first time for most of the people present could watch a solar eclipse because of the young age of the students. The ones who already watched a similar celestial manifestation were mostly older people or foreigners.

But it happens that even being at the right place isn’t always enough. Especially if one doesn’t have the proper equipment to watch it. This included Mohammed Abshirini, 30, an Iranian student in Mechanical Engineering department at OU.

Abshirini tried to see the total eclipse on Aug. 11,1999, in southern Iran, which was also visible in a large part of Europe and Turkey, but due to the lack of solar glasses available, Abshirini resigned himself to watch it on television, saying, “I missed it.” Fortunately, this time he finally found solar glasses to enjoy the eclipse.

Besides the usual solar glasses, telescopes and pinhole boxes to observe the eclipse, some other cool ways to enjoy the event were available. This is the list of techniques used during the eclipse by people on South Oval:

1. The optical projection using a telescope made by Astronomy Professor Tobin, providing a great quality of the eclipse. 

2. The use of binoculars equipped with solar filters by a group of staff members, provided an easy way to watch the eclipse. 

3. Mother Nature is not left in remainder, trees provided multitude shadows of the eclipse on the ground such as a paint composition. 

4. The use of a strainer was perhaps the most original way to observe the eclipse through a multitude of regular pinholes. 

5. And for the ones who did not know what to do with their hands, the little space between one’s fingers could project a grid of small images on the ground.

Shadow of the solar eclipse using a strainer on Aug. 21 at the University of Oklahoma. (Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report)

Due to technologic improvements during the last century, a solar eclipse is perhaps not “once in a lifetime” anymore. But seeing hundreds of people from various cultures and backgrounds - all together - watching the eclipse reminds one that the magical lure of the eclipse remains.

In addition to leadership offered by the Lunar Sooner members, the OU Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education also sponsored the event and the solar glasses were provided by NASA.

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Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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