Eclipse watchers swarm library grounds

By LARRY C. BOWERS Staff Writer
Posted 8/22/17

More than 500 people descended on the grounds of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library to view Monday’s total solar eclipse.

The size of the crowd was a surprise, perhaps swollen from …

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Eclipse watchers swarm library grounds

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More than 500 people descended on the grounds of the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library to view Monday’s total solar eclipse.

The size of the crowd was a surprise, perhaps swollen from the fact eclipse glasses were unavailable at most other venues. Perhaps 100 of those at the library were also disappointed, as more than 300 pairs of glasses were depleted in about a half hour.

The library received a grant for 1,000 eclipse safety glasses from the Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute in Colorado, but 800 of those glasses were distributed earlier. U.S. 101 Radio brought along more than 100 additional pairs, but they were quickly gone.

Children’s Librarian Keisha Parks had special acknowledgement of the library event printed on hundreds of T-shirts for visitors. Anyone who brought along a shirt could have the event commemorated by Parks.

Despite the overwhelming crowd, the library staff and volunteers handled the volume quite well.

Guest Speaker Holly Kelsey, a biology teacher at Bradley Central High School and former NASA Astronaut applicant, provided a brief talk about eclipses and the process which was about to unfold in this year’s total solar eclipse. She also shot down a couple of minor myths concerning eclipses.

Those who were unable to receive glasses would probably have felt much better if they had listened to Kelsey.

She said the danger during the process of the eclipse is not that much greater than “staring” at the sun during a bright, sunny day. Kelsey said the danger is “staring” at the sun over an extended amount of time.

“I wouldn’t be afraid to remove my glasses and glance at the sun,” she said. She said the amount of hype the issue has received, “created an excessive amount of concern.”

The self-proclaimed “NASA nerd,” said the greatest risk to the eyes is the amount of radiation a person might receive if they were to “stare” at sun during an eclipse, or even on a bright, sunny day. She emphasized your eyes are unable to perceive the amount of damaging radiation they might receive, because they do not have pain receptors. “Any damage you experience will come later,” she said, though it is unlikely that happened to those who used common sense during the eclipse.

“We’re getting less radiation today (due to the totality), than we would on a normal day,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey, her husband, Mark, and children Dan, 11, Kate, 9, and Jack, 4, are science enthusiasts.

She opened her talk by saying she was going to discuss “the big kahuna,” a rare occurrence in the nation’s list of astronomical events. She explained the solar eclipse was being viewed, in various stages before and after totality, at that very moment across the nation, from Oregon to South Carolina.

Kelsey said solar eclipses happen somewhere on Earth an average of every year and a half, but the last solar eclipse to cross the nation was 99 years ago.

The educator explained that Cleveland was located near the center of the event’s path across the nation, and many local viewers were being treated to totality, or the complete covering of the sun by the moon. “We’re going to get the whole thing,” she said outside the library’s conference hall as the eclipse began. She added that the Gulf Coast and Florida were only going to get about 80 percent of the eclipse.

Kelsey said the “diamond ring effect” is caused a tiny liver of sunlight seeping through mountain ranges of the moon.

She went on to talk about the eclipse as seen from the International Space Station, and the fact it was racing across the nation at 1,800 mph. Kelsey said part of Cleveland was to experience about 1 minute, 5 seconds of totality.

Kelsey concluded her talk by noting the Earth and the moon and the sun have to literally “line up perfectly for a total solar eclipse” to happen.

Three-week-old Charley Jones was the youngest visitor, and probably the youngest eclipse gazer along its path. She came to the library with her mom, Lana; brother, Kyson, 9, and sister, Kynlee, 4.

Another visitor of interest was Baker Elementary School teacher Matt Farrell from Acworth, Georgia. A STEM instructor, Farrell used a number of instruments to measure the eclipse’s impact on the wind.

Asked why he, his family, and friends, came to Cleveland to view they eclipse, he was very candid. “I read in the Atlanta Journal-[Constitution] that Cleveland would be an excellent place to watch the eclipse. I didn’t realize they meant Cleveland, Ga.!”

He added that Cleveland, Ga., was only getting about 98 percent of totality, so they made a quick change of plans and came here.

A majority of the viewers at the library moved away from the main complex as the eclipse began. Around 100 crossed the side road adjacent to the library to the Lee University campus, creating a picnic-like atmosphere to watch the phases leading up to totality.

Library Director Andy Hunt was delighted by Monday’s turnout, and the support of volunteers; the Friends of the Library group; and other partners.

“We realized we were going to get a crowd when we began receiving telephone calls every few minutes,” Hunt said. “It’s also pleasing they decided to come to a place of learning, and knowledge.”

Everyone in North America was able to see at least a partial solar eclipse (assuming inclement weather didn’t block the view). Those in parts of Cleveland were treated (as Kelsey said) “To the whole thing!”

Inset Quote:

“We realized we were going to get a crowd, when we began receiving telephone calls every few minutes. It’s also pleasing they decided to come to a place of learning, and knowledge.” — Andy Hunt

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