With exclamations of "Wow!" and "I see it!" Carroll County residents observed the historic 2017 solar eclipse Monday afternoon. In Carroll County, 80 percent of the sun was covered by the moon. The eclipse began at 1:17 p.m. and reached its peak at 2:42 p.m.
"It looks like a Jack-O-Lantern in the sky!" shouted Sebastian Isaza, 11, at the Carroll County Public Library's Eldersburg branch.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, casting a dark shadow on the Earth's surface. As explained on NASA's eclipse website, this doesn't occur every time the moon orbits the Earth because the plane of the moon's orbit is slightly tilted with respect to Earth's orbit around the sun. An eclipse occurs only when the moon's orbit intersects Earth's around the sun; it usually misses the Earth, passing too high or too low to cast a shadow.
The last total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States was in 1979, but it was visible only in the Pacific Northwest. The last time a total eclipse was visible across the entire country, that is, the moon's shadow swept from coast to coast, was in 1918.
The next opportunity to see a total eclipse in the continental U.S. will be in the spring of 2024 when a total eclipse will sweep the Midwest from north to south.
Eldersburg library branch manager Nadine Rosendale said people started lining up for glasses at 9 a.m. Monday.
"We had 500 glasses to give away. At noon, we started giving out the glasses and they were gone in 20 minutes," Rosendale said. "We also tried to make it accessible to the community so we set up a big screen computer to live stream the NASA.gov coverage."
Amateur astronomer Skye Korzie, of Eldersburg, set up a Dobsonian telescope outside of the library to share his view with other observers. He used a neutral density solar filter that allowed viewers to safely watch the eclipse
"I'm a space nerd," Korzie said. "I just wanted to see as much as I can and let other people see it too. I think it's a good way to get little kids interested in science."
John Bogdan, of Westminster, made four tinfoil pinhole sheets to view the eclipse with his family. He set white paper on the ground and lined the tinfoil sheet up with the sun. In this way, the eclipse was projected onto the white paper.
"I like teaching kids about science," said Bogdan, a former National Institute of Health scientist. "I saw the last full eclipse when I was a kid, and it's something I want to experience with my kids."
"I think it's cool. It's my first chance to see it," said Elizabeth, one of Bogdan's 9-year-old twin daughters.
"I'm excited to see when it goes dark and looks like nighttime," added Bogdan's other daughter, Sophia.
Christina Lawrence, of Finksburg, brought her 12-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's friend Chloe Cartwright, 12, to the Eldersburg branch library viewing party.
"I just thought it would be something cool for them to see. It's a rare learning experience," Lawrence said.
"I'm excited to see the darkness in the daytime. It's not normal," added Elizabeth.
"It's rare and special. I think it's a cool experience," added Chloe.
Wendy Lewis and her daughters, Sophie, 15, and Katie, 13, peered through their glasses to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.
"It's such a rare event," said Lewis, of Eldersburg. "Being able to see it with our own eyes is so much better than on a screen."
"A lot of people will be talking about it, so I think it would be weird to not see it. I want to be able to join in the conversation," added Sophie. "It's definitely different from what I thought it would be like. It's farther away and brighter than I expected."
At Charlotte's Quest Nature Center in Manchester, it was a festive atmosphere, as more than 200 people picnicked on blankets and lawn chairs, tossed footballs and kicked soccer balls to pass the time until the eclipse began. Some wore eclipse T-shirts and other apparel marking the occasion. One family bought astronomically named Milky Way candy bars and Orbit gum for their kids.
But at 1:17, when the celestial event could first be viewed in the Baltimore area, it was a dark gray cloud that eclipsed the sun rather than the moon's shadow in Manchester. But the clouds soon parted and the oohs-and-aahs began as people got a clear view of the once-in-a-lifetime event.
"Amazing," is how special education teacher Lisa Eichhorst, of Manchester, described viewing the eclipse through special glasses distributed by members of the Westminster Astronomical Society and Nature Center volunteers.
Eichhorst and fellow teacher Alletha Trageser knew they wanted to see the historical eclipse, but like many others there didn't buy the glasses necessary to view it safely, so they opted to come to the nature center after learning the center would have the special eyewear available.
Bob Clark, a member of the Westminster Astronomical Society and director of Charlotte's Quest Observatory, said he wasn't sure what kind of crowd to expect, but knew the large crowd was a possibility, "once the world ran out of the glasses," he said.
The glasses had sold out at many stores long before the astronomical event, which likely lead to the large crowds at public viewings like the one at Charlotte's Quest.
A few people were stopping by early to get glasses then leaving, said Bill Skinner, a member of the nature center's board of directors. So volunteers held back a few pairs to give to folks who arrived later to view the eclipse, so long as they made a $1 donation per pair to the astronomical society.
Skinner said the donations will help fund programs the astronomical society hosts at the observatory, "at least once a month." A number of events and projects suitable for high school-age kids and some for younger students too, Clark added.
Elfert remembered making cereal box pin-hole viewers for a solar eclipse when she was in elementary school in the 1980s and was hoping her family's children would have similar memories of Monday's event.
"The kids were very excited; it's just fun," she said. "Anytime you can expose them to nature and science, that's a good thing."