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EES eclipse party exceeds expectations

Ben Overby
Students gather on the quad to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.

Despite Murray not falling into the path of totality, hundreds of Murray State University students, faculty members and community members gathered on campus to watch the solar eclipse. 

The Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) department hosted a party in the Blackburn courtyard to provide information and resources for viewing the solar event.

Instructor Emily Johnson organized the celebration and found funding for it through an MSU Cares mini-grant. The party was staffed by volunteers from the EES student club and provided the community with games, food, information about the path of the eclipse and, most importantly, glasses to view it.

“I had to do some pretty deep digging to make sure that the ones that we were getting were actually approved,” Johnson said. “But nonetheless, we’ve got good glasses. We actually ordered a total of 550 pairs, but I have a very large line. I hope that I have enough for everybody, but I’m not sure that I will. I thought I was overshooting, but maybe I wasn’t.”

Volunteers ran out of eclipse glasses (and hot dogs) by the end of the party. Johnson was surprised and thrilled by the turnout. Besides celebrating the eclipse, she wanted the event to bring people together and bring awareness to the EES department.

“I think the turnout is going right along with camaraderie and bringing people together, exactly what I wanted to do,” Johnson said. “EES is a very small department and we want to do anything that we can to let people know that we’re here.”

Most of all, Johnson was happy to help people witness a rare solar event.

“A lot of these folks may have never seen one,” Johnson said. “Our next eclipse is at least 20 years away, so it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity for some folks. We had an eclipse back in 2017, but whenever we had that one the sun was kind of at a minimum. The sun’s on an 11-year cycle so we’re nearing a solar maximum now. There’s a lot more science that can actually happen.”

One student who hadn’t experienced an eclipse before was environmental sciences major Monica Collins, one of the event’s volunteers. While she was in the path of the 2017 eclipse, she couldn’t see it due to weather.

“School was canceled and everything,” Collins said. “We had a big event at the school and it was just an overcast day”.

While Collins’ focus is archeology, not astronomy, the eclipse was still of interest to her.

“I came to college for archaeology because I love mythology and storytelling,” Collins said. “Eclipses are pretty important for myth building in a lot of ancient cultures, so I think it’s a good thing to be able to witness”.

Creative writing major Olivia Potter saw the 2017 eclipse, but said it was the type of event she wouldn’t want to miss.

“I think it’s a terrific phenomenon,” Potter said. “It would be a shame if somebody were to miss it due to other events, it’s pretty rare. I wanted to see it again.”

Potter said she would have liked to have viewed the event somewhere in the path of totality (Murray was at 98.5 percent) but couldn’t because she doesn’t have a car.

“If I had to pick a perfect spot, I’d definitely choose the dam in Paducah,” Potter said. “I’d just put a blanket out because that is a beautiful spot.”

Michael Busby, EES lecturer and coordinator of geographic information science, said the watch party was a great way for people to learn about the EES program and the sun.

“I work for the department, but my hobbies are cosmology and astronomy on the side,” Busby said. “So things like this are great opportunities for people to kind of get out and actually look at the closest star to Earth.”

Busby said eclipses have had major impacts on scientific discoveries, including Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. He hopes people consider that level of its significance as well.

“This was an opportunity for people to get out and look at the sun, but I’m hoping that maybe they’ll use the opportunity to explore the impact that these things have on our lives besides human sacrifice,” Busby joked.

Regardless of whether community members spent their viewing time considering the eclipse’s scientific significance or trying to take a picture of it with their phone, the campus was packed with people taking in the last total solar eclipse to pass through the United States for decades.

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Ben Overby, Staff Writer

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