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Partial solar eclipse comes to CT, sparking wonder and joy as people look up

Paul J Comeau from New Britain wraps his arm around his wife, Katie Malachowski, as they take in the final moments of the solar eclipse at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford on April 8, 2024.
Dave Wurtzel
/
Connecticut Public
Paul J Comeau from New Britain wraps his arm around his wife, Katie Malachowski, as they take in the final moments of the solar eclipse at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford on April 8, 2024.

A celestial dance convened over Connecticut Monday, albeit imperfectly, as the sun and moon aligned with clocklike precision during a partial solar eclipse.

People across the state turned their eyes skyward, setting up viewing spots on lawns, outside science centers and offices to pause for a few moments of togetherness and look up.

Father Thomas Walsh of St. Augustine Church in Hartford joined a crowd of more than 3500 who gathered at the Connecticut Science Center to view the solar eclipse in Hartford on April 8, 2024.
Dave Wurtzel
/
Connecticut Public
Father Thomas Walsh of St. Augustine Church in Hartford joined a crowd of more than 3500 who gathered at the Connecticut Science Center to view the solar eclipse in Hartford on April 8, 2024.

At its peak, about 92% of the sun was covered when viewed from Connecticut. While there were some high clouds, the eclipse was visible to millions of residents across the region.

"Now that’s beauty," said Nathesia Chesson, who watched the eclipse from New Haven with her husband, Desi, and hundreds of other onlookers.

“It’s like something you see in a movie," Desi said. "Unbelievable!"

Chesson’s daughter, Shanyia, asked to come out and see the eclipse for her eighth birthday.

In New Haven, visitors stake out viewing spots

Shanyia Chesson celebrates her eighth birthday by watching the solar eclipse at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University on April 8, 2024.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Shanyia Chesson celebrates her eighth birthday by watching the solar eclipse at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University on April 8, 2024.

Residents across the state set up viewing stations in advance of Monday's eclipse.

Hundreds of people looked up outside the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Diane Tanenbaum, from North Haven, hunted for the perfect spot to watch the celestial show with a friend visiting from Boston.

“I’m just trying to figure out the best, most open place that we can view the eclipse safely," Tanenbaum said. "It’s exciting."

Amateur astronomer Michael Amato, of West Haven, set up a device that used glass to reflect the sun back onto a wooden surface for safe viewing.

Amato was thankful the weather cooperated.

“It was great. We were all so happy," Amato said. "The sun broke in the nick of time."

Yale University undergraduate Elena Serpas said she was waiting years for this experience.

“I’ve never seen an eclipse before," Serpas said. "In ... 2017, it passed right over my grandparents' house, but the traffic was so bad. We couldn’t see it. We were trapped outside the city for like seven hours."

Students juggle class schedules with solar show

People gather at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University to view the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
People gather at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University to view the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

At Connecticut College in New London, students prepared for the partial eclipse, despite busy Monday schedules.

Sophomore Leo Franceschi was hopeful his professor would excuse his seminar.

“Being able to see this several-times-in-a-lifetime event, especially when I’m in college, is really exciting," Franceschi said.

While some students traveled off campus for the eclipse, junior Crystal Dixon was more nonchalant. She said she’d try to get a glimpse of the eclipse from campus.

“I think it’s just a cool event to witness," Dixon said. "It’s not super important to me, but I think it’s cool to be out in nature."

In Hartford, thousands turn out to view a cosmic rendezvous

A crowd of more than 3500 gathered at the Connecticut Science Center to view the solar eclipse in Hartford on April 8, 2024.
Dave Wurtzel
/
Connecticut Public
A crowd of more than 3500 gathered at the Connecticut Science Center to view the solar eclipse in Hartford on April 8, 2024.

As the moon occluded nearly all of the sun, over 3,000 people at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford gazed up in wonder.

With glasses on, visitors described a lava-colored sun with a crecent-shaped grin.

Beeping tones could also be heard — coming from The LightSound Project. That device, which was present at the science center, turned the eclipse’s light intensity into sound, making the eclipse accessible for people who are blind or have low-vision.

"We can notice that the tone has gone down quite a lot, because the amount of light that's out has gone down quite a lot too," said Nate Gagnon, an educator at the center, during the eclipse. "Before it was a much higher pitched tone."

The Harvard-made device is in locations all around the region, and country.

How an eclipse works

A crowd of more than 3500 gathered at the Connecticut Science Center to view the solar eclipse in Hartford on April 8, 2024.
Dave Wurtzel
/
Connecticut Public
A crowd of more than 3500 gathered at the Connecticut Science Center to view the solar eclipse in Hartford on April 8, 2024.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, blocking the sun’s light – and casting a shadow on Earth.

The path of totality is where the moon’s shadow completely blocks out sunlight. It’s a relatively narrow band, about 100 miles wide, extending from Mexico up through northern Maine.

Total solar eclipses are “an awesome cosmic coincidence,” said Wesleyan astronomer Meredith Hughes.

“The moon just happens to be exactly the right distance away from us – relative to the sun’s size and distance – that it almost precisely is the same angular size in the sky,” Hughes told Connecticut Public’s “Where We Live.”

The sun is about 400 times bigger than the moon, but it’s also about 400 times farther away, according to NASA. This makes both appear to be almost exactly the same size in our sky.

You’ll have to wait decades to see a total solar eclipse in CT

West Haven resident Michael Amato explains his sun spotter to onlookers at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University where those gathered viewed the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
West Haven resident Michael Amato explains his sun spotter to onlookers at the Leitner Family Observatory and Planetarium at Yale University where those gathered viewed the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

Connecticut’s most recent partial eclipse was in 2017. Total solar eclipses in the state are extremely rare.

“In a given location on the Earth’s surface, a total solar eclipse happens about once every 375 years,” Hughes said.

The last time a total solar eclipse came to Connecticut was in 1925, with the path of totality passing right over Wesleyan University in Middletown.

“Astronomers from all over the world came to the Wesleyan observatory to observe the event,” Hughes said.

Connecticut’s next total solar eclipse won’t be for a while: May 2079.

Seeing a full solar eclipse is rare not only due to unique astronomical alignments but meteorological conditions also play a crucial role in allowing glimpses of the event. In Fair Haven, New York, clouds from a mostly overcast sky are visible during first contact of the eclipse.
Julianne Varacchi
/
Connecticut Public
Seeing a full solar eclipse is rare not only due to unique astronomical alignments but meteorological conditions also play a crucial role in allowing glimpses of the event. In Fair Haven, New York, clouds from a mostly overcast sky are visible during first contact of the eclipse.

A solar eclipse is a cosmic wonder nobody should miss, Hughes said.

“It’s an event that everybody – not only on the path of totality, but also the people who are experiencing a partial eclipse – get to take away a little bit of that awe and joy,” Hughes said.

View a replay of the April 8 eclipse from Vermont Public

This story has been updated. Connecticut Public Radio's Patrick Skahill, Michayla Savitt, Eddy Martinez, Terell Wright and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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