By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
On Monday, August 21, people across the United States looked towards the sky to view the first solar eclipse in North America since 1979. Etowah County joined in with businesses, schools and individuals taking time out of their days to view the astronomical event.
The Gadsden Public Library, always prepared to help the community learn, held a Solar Eclipse Viewing Party, bringing hundreds to the library.
Gadsden Public Library Director Amanda Jackson said that people were lining up to receive solar eclipse glasses as early as 7 a.m. The glasses were in such high demand that the library implemented a ticket system so people who arrived early could reserve a pair.
Jackson said that throughout the day the library must have had more than 300 visitors, since the library ran out of the 275 pairs of glasses it had, while there was still a crowd lined up out the door.Luckily, those that did not receive glasses were able to share with those that did.
Librarian Craig Scott ordered 200 glasses for the library from NASA. Gadsden Public Library received 1000 pairs, so when teachers called requesting pairs for their students, Scott gave away all but 250 pairs of glasses.NASA sent 500 more pairs upon request, but the glasses waiting list exceeded that.
So many people were interested in the solar eclipse program that the presentation had to be given several times to different groups, because there was not enough room.
Scott welcomed everyone to the library and introduced Jacksonville State University student Justin Tinker. Tinker is from Gadsden and is vice-president of JSU’s Astronomy Club.
“We have an eclipse, for me, it’s once in a lifetime,” said Scott. “I remember the one from 1979, but it wasn’t like this one. This one is close. We are not in the path of totality, as Justin will tell you, but we are going to be at 95.5 percent.”
Tinker started his presentation with solar eclipse words you should know including umbra, the dark central portion of the shadow; the punumbra, the lighter outer portion of the shadow; antumbra, a half shadow that appears during an annular (which means ring-shaped) eclipse; aphelion, the maximum distance from the sun; perihelion, the minimum distance from the sun; apogee, the maximum distance from the moon; and perigee minimum distance from the moon.
Tinker went on to explain the different types of solar eclipses. The partial eclipse is the most common, where the shadow does not cover the whole sun. The annular eclipse leaves a ring shape, but only in a small area. The total eclipse blocks the sun completely, leaving only the corona of the sun visable. The rarest type of eclipse is the hybrid eclipse, in which everything aligns to showcase all three other types of eclipses at once, beginning with a partial eclipse, moving to an annular ecipse before turning into a total eclipse.
“It’s really rare,” said Tinker. “You are almost guaranteed not to see one in your lifetime.”
Tinker explained that eclipses happen at least twice per year, and can happen up to five times in a year, although that is extremely rare. A total eclipse only happens every 18 months, but along diffferent paths. Total eclipses will retake paths after 360 to 410 years. He also explained that solar eclipses only happen during a new moon.
The next North American total solar eclipse is in 2024, though Tinker said that Gadsden won’t have much of a view
Tinker also went over eye safety for viewing the eclipse before attendees went to the Library Park across the street from the GPL.
At the Library Park, people of all ages and walks of life came together to view the solar eclipse together though glasses or even the occasional welding mask. Children ran around and played with each other. Some attendees relaxed by laying on their backs in the grass to get a good view.