Spectators gathered Monday at The Arboretum at Penn State to experience a partial view of a total solar eclipse, which hasn’t occurred in the continental United States in 26 years.
More than 1,000 people spread throughout the arboretum to catch a glimpse of the celestial event, which occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun.
Each total solar eclipse has a “path of totality,” which is a swath of land where the sun is completely blocked by the moon. The path stretched from coast to coast for the first time in almost 100 years, but Centre County was just outside of the path, which resulted in about 80 percent of the sun being blocked for the spectators.
Penn State assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics Rebekah Dawson said regardless of not being in the direct path, viewers at Penn State still required special viewing glasses, but because of a “national shortage” only 200 were available at the site.
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The shortage of glasses created a communal feeling to the event, and for about three hours, the westward facing spectators shared the cardboard-framed glasses with mirror-like lenses.
Oscar Steinmann, an exchange student from Germany, anticipated the glasses shortage and bought five pairs for $50 online. He spent the time between classes on the first day of the Penn State semester sharing his glasses and enjoying the view.
With only about 15 minutes until his next class, Steinmann was able to catch the peak of the event, which came at about 2:30 p.m.
After watching the event come to a climax, he pulled off his glasses and with a bright smile handed them off to the next person. About 15 people passed them around with the same joyous result.
“It was amazing to see and I’m happy I was here for it,” Steinmann said. “But now I only have three minutes until class.”
Before he sprinted off to his next class, Steinmann gave away three sets of glasses and put the other two in his backpack.
“I guess I’ll keep them for the future,” Steinmann said. “Now I’m prepared for the next one.”
He’ll have to wait about seven years. On April 8, 2024, much of the eastern half of the country, including Pennsylvania, will be in the “path of totality” of the next total solar eclipse.