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April 9, 2024

A Different Kind of Sun Block

Students Viewing the Solar Eclipse
Look up: Students scan the skies wearing protective glasses donated by the educational publisher Pearson.

On April 8, St. Francis College (SFC) students, faculty and staff joined fellow New Yorkers to witness a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event: a near-total solar eclipse. A total eclipse happens when the moon crosses in front of the sun, completely obscuring the face of the latter. This phenomenon occurs due to the relative sizes and distances of the sun, moon and Earth. The sun is approximately 400 times larger than the moon, while the moon is around 400 times closer to Earth.

At 2 p.m., members of the campus community began streaming into Room 7202 to enjoy snacks, including half-moon cookies, Milky Way bars and Starburst candies, and pick up protective cardboard viewers. About 120 pairs of the CE/ISO-approved eyewear, necessary for viewing an eclipse when any part of the sun is visible, were generously donated by Pearson.

More than 150 students, faculty and staff then flocked to the 15th-floor roof deck of 181 Livingston Street to gaze upward in awe. Others chose to view the eclipse from classroom windows or on the streets of Downtown Brooklyn. Regardless of one’s vantage point, the excitement was palpable.

“Observing the solar eclipse from the rooftop provided an extraordinary opportunity for students, faculty and staff to engage with science and nature,” said Mark Yarish, a former New York City high school earth-science teacher and current assistant professor of management and IT at St. Francis College as well as director of its graduate non-classroom experiences and online teaching certification. Yarish, along with SFC’s Special Events and Facilities teams, helped organize the eclipse-viewing.

Yesterday’s solar eclipse was visible across a swath of North America, from Mexico to Canada, crossing the contiguous United States. In New York City, 90% totality (the amount of the sun’s light blotted by the moon) was observable, with the peak occurring between 3:16 and 3:29 p.m.

“We are fortunate to have experienced two remarkable, unrelated natural events, with last week's significant earthquake and its aftershock, followed by this week's eclipse,” Yarish noted. “Such phenomena might only occur once in a lifetime, and scientists often wait patiently for years for these events, which can be both predictable and unpredictable.”

The next total solar eclipse in New York City will take place in 2079.

Editor’s note: If your eclipse glasses are still in usable condition (not bent, scratched or broken), please consider dropping them off at a Warby Parker store before April 30. All donated glasses will be sent to Astronomers Without Borders, who will distribute them to educators and students around the world.

Faculty Viewing the Solar Eclipse
Umbraphiles (from the Latin for "shadow lover") among the faculty and staff

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