Niskayuna students, residents marvel at solar eclipse

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Though the event didn’t officially start until 1 p.m., people started arriving around noon, hauling strollers, picnic blankets, umbrellas and coolers.

Scott had 70 pairs of viewing glasses on hand, and all were snatched up within minutes. But at his urging, attendees were passing the glasses around, allowing others to take in the sight.

Stepanos Doudoukjian, a Niskayuna resident and the father of two Niskayuna High School students,  landed his own pair of viewing glasses through his wife’s workplace. He came out for the event after receiving an email from Scott.

“I’m intrigued by weather and earth science,” he said. “It’s neat to gather as a community to see it.”

RELATED: The great American eclipse was finally here

Glasses weren’t the only way to watch the eclipse. Niskayuna resident and retired Voorheesville High School science teacher Rick Mele found directions for building pinhole projectors online. He built a set out of cardboard boxes for his grandchildren in the morning before heading to the Niskayuna fields.

“The longer the box, the bigger the image,” Mele said. The longest box he had was used to ship his fishing poles, and the projected image was about the size of a nickel.

Mele’s grandson, Lucas Hoffman, and granddaughter Cassie joined their mom, grandmother, grandfather and other family members, all watching the eclipse together.

Watson Fogle, a 5th grader at Caroline Street Elementary School in Saratoga Springs, came with his family as well.

“We’re here because of the eclipse,” Fogle said. “These are rare.”

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Brody Johnson, an 8th grader at Niskayuna’s Van Antwerp Middle School, was also there to take in the spectacle.

“This is a big part of history, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Johnson said.

It was Johnson’s first eclipse, but others remembered seeing an eclipse or two before. Olivia Isopo, who brought her own young children, recalled seeing one as a middle school student.

Indeed there have been eclipses visible across the region in recent memory. There was an annular solar eclipse in 1994. In that kind of eclipse, the moon covers the sun’s center but leaves a visible “ring of fire.” There are partial solar eclipses throughout the year, but not all are visible in our area.

Regardless of the type of eclipse — total, partial or annular — it’s important to not stare directly at the sun. For Monday’s event, the science department put four sunspotter devices on the lawn. The sunspotters captured the sun’s rays and projected the progression of the eclipse safely.

There was also a table stocked with cereal boxes, tin foil, tape and directions for making a pinhole projector.

The next total solar eclipse visible in this area will happen on April 8, 2024. The Capital Region should see a more dramatic event then, as the path of totality goes directly over Buffalo.