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Solar eclipse stuns viewers at Howard Community College

Solar eclipse stuns viewers at Howard Community College

At 2:42 p.m. Monday, more than 100 Howard Community College faculty, staff, students and their family members packed the front lawn of the science, engineering and technology building for a glimpse of the solar eclipse.

According to the NASA website, the solar eclipse Aug. 21 was the first event to cross the continental U.S. since 1918.

At HCC, the sky darkened, temperatures dropped and everyone cheered as the moon passed between the earth and the sun. Marylanders experienced about 80 percent of the eclipse, while other states like Kentucky, Oregon and South Carolina saw the moon completely cover the sun, a moment called "totality."

As Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" played in the background, HCC genetics and microbiology professor Luda Bard and her two children, Ari, 10, and Ammi, 7, smiled when they spotted the eclipse. The family arrived earlier in the afternoon so Ari and Ammi could make their own pinhole cameras out of shoe boxes, aluminum foil and duct tape.

The homemade device allows the user to see an image of the eclipse through a projection of light.

"It's very exciting," said Bard, an Ellicott City resident. "My husband is an engineer and I'm a biologist, so we had a little bit of background to explain the science to the kids."

Ammi said he and his brother had viewing glasses as well in case their pinhole camera didn't work.

"My grandpa was in World War II and he remembers seeing an eclipse," Ari added.

Nearby, Ren Brault, a member of the college's theater workshop crew, said she and her friend, Kristin Brain, built a larger pinhole camera using a large box from a recent delivery. Brain said they decided to build the device vertically — rather than horizontally like the shoe boxes — to get a bigger and better image.

"It's great for everyone to get a break from work and it's really important because we only see it so many years," Brain said. "It's awesome."

HCC student Hope Steele, 33, said she was eagerly awaiting the eclipse over the past three days. Unable to find viewing glasses, Steele said she was glad that the community college provided people with tools to build their own viewing devices.

"I'm like a groupie of the eclipse. I woke up today and said, 'Who's excited?'" Steele said. "For [HCC] to have this available is amazing. I didn't have to miss it because I didn't have glasses."

The NASA website reported the next solar eclipse is set to occur in 2024; however, Maryland won't have a similar view until 2099.

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