Sun. May 26th, 2024

On April 8, the world experienced a solar eclipse. With the last one happening back in 2017, there was a lot of excitement surrounding this one happening just seven years later. Many experienced it at West Chester University’s S-lot on South Campus. Hosted by the Mather Planetarium, the cloud coverage interfered with a lot of the viewing experience but still made for a great event with crafts and games. Already being a partial solar eclipse, it posed a little difficult to see — but according to 6abc reporter, Maggie Kent, there was a good break in the clouds for a few moments where people became increasingly more excited to witness a sliver of the partial solar eclipse. 

Although more visible this year in West Chester than in 2017, unless you are on the line of full totality, you were only able to see a partial eclipse. The line of totality this year stretched within a 115-mile-wide path radius. Places starting in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois all saw maximum totality before 2 p.m. while other states like Indiana, Ohio, our very own Erie, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine all saw full totality after 2 p.m. Individuals who wanted to venture to see it in its entirety, like Danielle Scott from the WCU ESS club, headed to Utica, New York en route to follow in line with the full totality streak to see the full solar eclipse. I was emailing Scott back and forth, curious about his perspective of it all since he majors in Earth and Space Science. I asked the following questions: 

“What inspired you to come out and witness the solar eclipse today? Next, how do you feel about experiencing this rare event? Then, what do you find to be most fascinating about the phenomenon of a solar eclipse? Lastly, how does witnessing a solar eclipse make you feel about our place in the universe?”

As Scott so effortlessly puts it, “I knew that it was going to be quite a while [‘]till the next solar eclipse crossed the US, and since I made it a goal to run more field trips with the Earth and Space Science club, I figured this was a perfect event to try and coordinate.” Then he mentioned, “I felt absolutely euphoric after experiencing this rare event. Even though the clouds rolled in and we only had about two minutes of totality, it was still a world-changing experience with my friends and everyone else near Utica called Old Forge, New York.” Scott found that “watching the horizons darken and lighten before and after the eclipse was the most fascinating part because it was basically like watching sunrise or sunset at triple the speed, since the light change happens so dramatically. Seeing the Corona on top of everything was also fascinating as it created such a beautiful halo effect in a dark sky.” Lastly, with witnessing such a rare event, Scott mentioned his place in the universe “made [him] feel extremely connected to the universe in a very intrinsic way. This may also have to do with a sense of tied community and emotion as hundreds of people began cheering, hugging and smiling. Even though it only lasted two minutes, everything felt like a dream for a few hours after.” 

Like Scott, I also went elsewhere to keep the tradition of venturing to see the solar eclipse going. The last time I saw the eclipse was in Oakland, California when I was 17. Although it was only 76% visible, it was an incredible experience and one I was lucky enough to take part in somewhere I had never been before. This year, I took a trip up to Penn State to not only see the solar eclipse, which happened to be 96% totality, but to see my brother, who is also graduating this year like me! It was a wonderful time creating a new memory together surrounding the same event only seven years later. 

When I was at Penn State, I had the pleasure of interviewing a couple of Penn State natives. I had my microphone, and my friend had his camera, and we looked professional enough to pass as real reporters! I walked up to my first guest, Rachel Duke, who just so happened to be the Public Programs Manager for Penn State University. Duke was super outgoing and the most fun to interview out of anybody. Her inspiration to come out and witness the event was not only because of her position, but she mentioned that the last time she was starting her undergrad, the solar eclipse was around 80% totality and was the first time she witnessed a solar eclipse. 

I proceeded to ask her how she felt about experiencing this solar eclipse, and she so exuberantly said, “I’m thrilled, and as an environmental educator and someone who just likes to get people excited about nature, it just reminds me that’s what being human is all about. It’s great to see everybody coming together, and just really being excited about a cool thing that is happening so many miles away from Earth, yet it brings us so close together as a society.” I had a lot to say, but what I found to be the most compelling in our interview was when she answered my question, “How does witnessing a solar eclipse make you feel about our place in the universe?” Her response was, “I think it’s really cool. When you think about the stars and how they’ve moved over centuries and millennia, every single thing from dinosaurs, the medieval age, we’re all looking or have looked at the same stars. The same goes for the sun, everybody right now is looking at the sun as this is going on. So I just think it’s a great thing to remember, like we’re all humans, we’re all in this together, and we’re all kind of floating on a rock in the middle of space, so it’s important to be kind since we’re all in this together!” 

Duke’s impact on the Arboretum at Penn State is worth mentioning. And also worth mentioning is her and other students’ contribution to the arboretum’s model solar system that included UFOs, and their interaction with the many people making sure they were viewing the solar eclipse safely, handing out over 1500 solar eclipse glasses. 

This experience is so rare and will not be happening for another 20 years, in 2045. That is a long way away, so it was important to me to have been able to inform and get insight on everyone’s experiences since that is what connects us at the end of the day. You can find the other article I wrote promoting the Mather Planetarium event on the WCU newsroom tab on the homepage called, “West Chester University To Host A Solar Eclipse Viewing Event.” I have to thank my internship at the Communications and Marketing department and my supervisor, Loretta MacAlpine, Deputy Director of Public Relations, for making this independent project a reality, and I cannot stress enough how thankful I am for the recognition it received.


Skyler Wick is a fifth-year Communications major with a minor in Media & Culture.

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