The stars (and the moon) aligned for Vermonters to take advantage of a somewhat rare celestial event on Thursday.
At dawn, the moon crossed between the sun and the earth to create a partial solar eclipse. The colors of the sunrise further heightened the awe felt by members of the Vermont Astronomical Society and others in attendance to watch the eclipse at Wheeler Park in South Burlington.
The annular eclipse began at around 5:07 a.m. The point of maximum coverage was around 5:37 a.m. and by 6:37 a.m. the moon had completely crossed the path of the sun.
Visibility is always at the mercy of the weather, but Vermont Astronomical Society president Jack St. Louis said everything had gone very well.
“It was a little difficult at first because we could barely see the sun through the clouds, but then they came off and we went to see a lot of them,” said St. Louis.
Amateur astronomers have come to take in the view, some with high-tech solar photography equipment and systems that automatically track the sun across the sky without having to adjust a telescope. Others brought their usual cameras and attached a special filter to the lens or just came to enjoy the view by wearing welding goggles or cardboard solar eclipse goggles.
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St. Louis installed a projection screen on its white light telescope, which allowed many viewers to view the phenomenon safely without the aid of safety glasses. “It’s so convenient, and it’s so easy to do,” he said. He created it by modifying a funnel he bought at a hardware store. He cut the funnel until the eyepiece fits, then attached the projection screen hardware he ordered from the Internet with a cable tie.
He and the rest of the company are a wealth of helpful advice and information, due to their years of experience. St. Louis first joined the club in 1966, two years after its founding. And while he enjoys looking at the moon, planets, and eclipses, he said the best part is sharing his love of astronomy with people. While others took pictures of the eclipse, he also took pictures of people delighted with their discovery.
Thursday’s event was a practice for the big one – a total solar eclipse that will occur in 2024. Vermont will be one of the regions on the path to totality.
The Vermont Astronomical Society holds public events throughout the year, which it advertises on its website at vtastro.org.
They also like to help people use their telescopes. “There are a lot of telescopes that live in closets,” St. Louis said. The group can help people clean and align their glasses or give advice on what to buy. Do you have a question for them? Email the Vermont Astronomical Society at email@example.com.
Contact reporter April Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.