Today’s eclipse: A celebration worthy of ‘Solar Spectacular’ status

Carla Clark | For The Republic Ella Castelloe and May Sigman, from Ashville, NC, during the Solar Spectactular Eclipse Viewing Party hosted by kidscommons and the Bartholomew County Public Library at Central Middle School, Columbus, Ind., Monday April 8, 2024.

Carla Clark | For The Republic Ella Castelloe and May Sigman, from Ashville, NC, during the Solar Spectactular Eclipse Viewing Party hosted by kidscommons and the Bartholomew County Public Library at Central Middle School, Columbus, Ind., Monday April 8, 2024.

Hundreds of visitors converged upon Central Middle School’s track Monday for an opportunity written in the stars.

Solar Spectacular, an all-ages viewing party in the city’s heart, was organized by Bartholomew County Public Library and kidscommons and featured a range of themed activities, music — even a rabbit.

It was a professional work day for BCSC, so although there was no classes for students, they were still able to get their daily dose of education at different stations set up around the track.

Students could hear what it took to build a moon base with kidscommons and were able to learn about block printing by creating an eclipse-like design with library instructors. Some came dressed for the occasion — young Asher Anderson came decked out in a space suit. Many lined up to peek through telescopes to get an idea of what an eclipse is all about.

Hanover University Associate Professor of Physics Greg Robison traveled to Columbus with his family and an assortment of high-tech equipment. He was set up on the perimeter of the field with telescopes, teaching kids about the eclipse and letting them see the surface of the sun in precise detail. Earlier in the day, before the sun was blocked out by the moon, sun spots could be identified.

“So this has a hydrogen alpha filter,” Robison said of one of his telescopes. “So bascially, these are like your solar eclipse glasses. It basically takes all the light and decreases the intensity.”

Robison said he was glad to see so many people fastidious about wearing their eclipse glasses. Some weren’t sure when and if it was safe to take them off.

“There were a couple people that were like, ‘Oh, I can take my glasses off during totality?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, you have to there’s no white light!’ But that’s a good problem to have,” Robison said.

The aforementioned rabbit is Totti, kidscommons’ resident pet.

Executive Director Whitney Hartwell said Totti has a skylight, so the Lionhead rabbit is able to differentiate between night and day. Totti was brought along because “she’s very, very sweet” and loves being around kids, but Hartwell also wanted to see how the fluffy creature would react during totality.

“I think that she’ll probably act crazy because she’s very curious, whereas my dog at home will probably be asleep,” Hartwell predicted.

About two hours later, Hartwell confirmed Totti was out like a light.

Milan Reed and April Weathers, Chicago-residents, were always going to come down this way for the eclipse, but didn’t settle on Columbus until the day of the solar event.

“We didn’t know we were going to be here, we had three different stops along I-65,” Reed said.

Reed is a photographer and videographer and had an elaborate set-up ready to capture the eclipse.

They had been visiting Reed’s brother and his wife in Louisville and wanted to find a place centrally located with enough to do so their nephews would stay entertained and all involved could get back home within a reasonable time frame.

The two had stopped at the library and the visitor’s center and decided this would be where they would watch the cosmic wonder.

Weathers said they were trying to avoid the more populated areas and were impressed with what Columbus had to offer.

“We didn’t want to be in Indy because we knew it was going to be super crowded,” Weathers said. ” … We also felt Columbus was just prepared for the eclipse.”

Chipp Latham drove up from Hebron, Kentucky with his family on Monday morning. Latham saw the eclipse in 2017 and didn’t want to miss this one either. He also traveled for the ring of fire eclipse in New Mexico just last October.

Latham was fiddling with some of Robison’s telescopes and helping out while Robison was occupied.

“Here’s the find focus to see the sunspots right here,” Latham instructed.

All of Latham’s family members were equipped with eclipse themed T-shirts. Latham’s read: “Hello Darkness My Old Friend,” accompanied by a skeleton sitting in a rocking chair.

Brian Hendricks, also from Chicago, spent the night with family in North Vernon before heading up to Columbus. Hendricks said he had been told the journey from North Vernon to Columbus would be arduous with all the expected traffic, so he left four hours in advance. Hendricks said he was able to cruise right into Columbus with little problem.

“So we came too early,” Hendricks laughed.

Hendricks chose Central to watch the eclipse because he found the event to be “the best advertised place in Columbus” after looking online.

“I think it’s a great place. It has good visibility, very well-prepared it looks like.”

As the time drew nearer, the event’s defacto emcee, DJ MicDrop, would announce the percentage totality and receive roars of approval in return.

When full totality was reached, people cheered, fireworks were set off and cowbells were clanged. It was a sight many would never see again in their lives and Totti was fast asleep.