Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 19, 2018

Out of this world sight

Clouds dissipate, yielding a great eclipse view
Aug 22, 2017
Photo by: Brooks Taylor Henry County Conservation Department’s “At the Park Great American Eclipse Day Celebration” Monday attracted 120 guests. Tom Ellsworth of Mt. Pleasant had his telescope set up which showed the progress of the eclipse.

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


“Cool”, “neat”, “awesome”. Those were some of the adjectives uttered mid-day Monday at the Oakland Mills Disc Golf shelter as 120 people watched the moon pass in front of the sun and cast a shadow over the earth.

Commonly known as an eclipse, the Henry County Conservation Department’s “At the Park Great American Eclipse Day Celebration” exceeded expectations — in terms of attendance.

“We were talking Friday in the office and expected just over 40 to attend,” Danika Cox, a Henry County naturalist said. “it got a little bigger than anticipated.”

Cox did all the planning for the celebration, which she said took about a month. “I am excited about having this and the eclipse itself,” she stated.

Cars lined Oakland Mills Road for nearly a mile and vehicles from as far away as Washington and California were seen in the parking lot.

Dwight Britton and his wife, Rose, of Cotter, fish frequently at Oakland Mills and heard about the viewing through the media. “I got the wife and grandkids to come down with me,” Dwight said, pointing to Jess and Chris Day, the Brittons’ two grandchildren from Muscatine.

“This is something you don’t see everyday,” added Rose.

Not only don’t you see it everyday, you’re lucky to see it once in a lifetime as the last total solar eclipse in the United States was 99 years ago. Since that time, there have been numerous partial eclipses.

An eclipse happens because the distance between the sun and earth makes the moon appear to be the same size as the sun, so when it passes over the sun, it blocks the light.

The moon also rotates around the earth at a 5-degree angle, so the chance of it lining up perfectly with the sun is rare.

Scientists also say that on average, the same spot on earth gets to see a solar eclipse for a few minutes every 375 years.

Tom Ellsworth, of Mt. Pleasant, a retired teacher, brought his telescope, which greatly enhanced the celebration. Ellsworth placed a piece of paper directly below the telescope’s eyepiece so what was happening in the solar system was reflected on the piece of paper.

Ellsworth’s viewing station was packed for most of the celebration but the crowd thinned after the peak eclipse at 1:08 p.m.

He said his involvement began with the Henry County Extension Office when he was asked by Cherry Sandeen if he wanted to participate in eclipse day activites. Eventually, the Extension staff handed the baton to the conservation department, Ellsworth said.

In addition to displaying the eclipse’s path, Ellsworth provided some insight to various items which were appearing on the sun. For instance, he said little specks (about the size of a pinhead) were storms on the sun. “They go in 11-year cycles,” he noted, referring to the storms. “Scientists are trying to determine whether they correspond to droughts here.”

While Ellsworth was sincerely enjoying what he was doing, he was experiencing a twinge of regret for opting not to go to Missouri where some Mt. Pleasant people were watching the eclipse. “After seeing a video, maybe I should have gone with Ed Kropa to Glasgow, Mo.”

Those regrets, however, were quickly dismissed as the eclipse approached totality. “It is really amazing how things have to line up. I was hoping to get some good looks but these are great looks.”

Julie Miller, of New London, learned about the celebration through Oakland Mills’ website and brought her four children along. “We’re always talking about space and the moon and thought it would be good to come to this. The kids are very excited to be here.”

Her daughter, Bethany, 8, agreed, adding that it was better than being in school, which begins Wednesday. “I wanted to see the moon cover the sun, and I was really excited.”

Claudia Streeter, Mt. Pleasant, said she had seen an eclipse in Albuquerque, N.M., a few years ago. “It was really neat.”

She said media hype was the main reason that brought her to Oakland Mills Monday. “There was so much coverage I thought I wold come. I am enjoying it. I think everybody should have taken part. It is part of our lifestyle.”

In addition to the eclipse celebration, there were activities for the kids. Aline Thiengmany was participating in some activities with younger siblings inside the shelter. “We saw the activities, so we thought we might as well check them out. We will go outside soon. We came here with our dad. It is the first time seeing an eclipse, and I am pretty excited.”

Keira McBeth, granddaughter of Steve Wilson of Mt. Pleasant, said she had been “excited about the eclipse” for several weeks.

Although Wilson saw an eclipse in either the late 1960s or early 1970s, he said it was great to share the experience with his granddaughter. “This is really a big thing for me,” he said. “I think it is a neat idea.”

Nicely said her excitement for the eclipse grew as the time neared. “I didn’t expect so many people to attend, but I think because of the big media blowup, it heightened the attention.”

About the only thing that could have thrown a wrench into the event was the weather, and Nicely admitted to being on pins and needles for much of the day. While early-morning rain yielded to clouds later and finally sunshine around 11:30 a.m., Nicely said she was still worried. “I was terrified that it was going to be cloudy and heard there was supposed to be a thunderstorm at 1 p.m. But the weather turned out great and this event was beyond my imagination.”


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