Thousands in Pittsburgh region turn to the sky for glimpse of 'cool' solar eclipse
Western Pennsylvania paused for a few moments Monday afternoon and looked up.
And the view was spectacular.
"Wow, that is so cool," Aadil Ginwala said, looking at the partial solar eclipse through a pair of solar glasses.
Ginwala of Shadyside and his family were among the thousands of people who flocked to the Carnegie Science Center on Pittsburgh's North Shore to view the eclipse.
"Is that cool or what?" Ginwala said to his 4-year-old son, Abbas, as the boy put on the pair of solar glasses.
More than 4,000 people showed up at the science center and waited for the chance to view the eclipse through special telescopes, shared pairs of glasses with solar filters on them or watched the eclipse through homemade pinhole viewers.
"It's a very rare opportunity," said Melissa Fann, who came with her 5-year-old son, Trey.
The Fanns brought pinhole viewers made out of cereal boxes and let people watch through them.
Darla Efremenko of McCandless and her 10-year-old son, Cory, sat on the steps below the Langley Observatory Clock watching the eclipse. Cory will earn a special eclipse merit badge for viewing and telling his Cub Scout group about the event.
Natalie Palmieri, 22, of Mt. Lebanon, and Jesse Gordon, 19, of Mt. Lebanon, share eclipse glasses while viewing the solar eclipse on the North Shore on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.
Photo by Nate Smallwood
Layla Sodini, 10, her sister, Alyssa, 9, and their friends Reese Schooley, 10, and Ambriella, 8, and Addie Vierra, 9, had the day off from school and persuaded their moms to bring them to the science center. The girls attend South Fayette Schools, which last week canceled its first day of classes so kids could watch the eclipse.
"You're learning something today," Sarah Vierra, one of the moms, said.
The girls took turns sharing solar glasses and keeping tabs on the moon as it moved across the sun.
"I just want to see what it looks like," Alyssa said.
The eclipse started around 1 p.m. and lasted until about 4 p.m. At about 2:35 p.m., the eclipse hit its peak in Western Pennsylvania as the moon covered about 80 percent of the sun. The sky on the North Shore darkened, like it would in early evening.
"It's like we're in the shade," Jill Sodini, the other mom with the girls, said. "See how it's just not that sunny."
Across the river, a crowd gathered at Point State Park to watch the eclipse. Kayakers floated in the rivers. A airplane above made what looked like an obvious turn out of its normal flight path to give passengers a view.
— Aaron Aupperlee
It was all good vibes at the Frick Environmental Center in Pittsburgh, where staff said about 700 people came out to watch the eclipse.
"Everyone's so kind, generous, everyone's sharing their glasses," said Louise Mitinger of Aspinwall. "Just because it's something we all want to share in."
Mitinger attended the viewing party with her daughter, Emily Torbert, 11, who raided her kitchen for eclipse-viewing supplies. She came prepared with multiple pinhole viewers, a paper plate viewer and a colander.
"It's really exciting to be one of those people who can actually see it," Torbert said.
Eclipse watchers around the park had a variety of viewing devices and didn't hesitate to share.
Christie Vanorsdale knew she wouldn't be able to track down glasses, so she borrowed her brother's welding mask.
"I've never seen one before, so I don't really know what to compare it to," she said.
Rob Williams of Plum watched an eclipse back in the 1970s in Virginia. He was happy to be able to share this event with his daughters, Kendall and Gabrielle, both 11.
"It's one of those things you don't know if you're going to get to see again in your lifetime," he said.
— Jamie Martines
At Newhouse Park, more than 200 signed up for the library's eclipse viewing, meaning watchers had to take shifts using about 100 glasses the library obtained through NASA and the Westmoreland County Library Network.
Periodic clouds left the crowd waiting for several stretches before getting to see the partial eclipse.
"This Western Pennsylvania weather ... When you don't want it cloudy for 10 minutes of the day, there it is," Tim Jumper, 48, owner of Keystone Flooring, said as he tried to spot the sun through the clouds and a welding helmet he owned through his hobby of building hot rods.
"My wife said, 'You better close up and come out here,'" said Jumper, who brought his son, Ben, to join wife, Kim, in the park. "I put a Post-It note on the door: 'Gone to see the eclipse.'"
Tom Testa (left), 65, of Delmont, watches the eclipse through binoculars with mylar filters, with Byron Scott, 72, of Murrysville, at Newhouse Park in Delmont, on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017.
Photo by Dan Speicher
Children played on the evening-dim playground or went through library-sponsored activities in the shelter of Kepple Pavilion while waiting out the clouds or awaiting their turn with a pair of glasses.
Among the activities, Kindergarten teacher Anthony Barbato spun Rocco and Giulianna Ventrice, ages 5 and 3, in "orbit" of Adah Farnsworth, 7, to demonstrate the positions of the sun, earth and moon during the eclipse.
"We do an astronomy club at school, so I had some background knowledge; the library had some knowledge and we put this together," Barbato said.
"It looked like the moon got bitten," said Adah, after checking out the eclipse with some of the library's glasses.
Library director Denni Grassel said the number of people at the park likely exceeded the 200 sign-ins and volunteers, given how many appeared to have shown up without registering.
The scene was similar at the Murrysville Community Library.
— Matthew Santoni
Josh Ritter looked at his watch and at the sky.
It was raining, but it was getting close to 2:35 p.m. when the solar eclipse would be at its peak in Western Pennsylvania.
The rain slowed and the clouds cleared just in time at Penn-Trafford High School.
"It was pretty much like it was from a movie or something," said Ritter, a senior. "It's really awesome to see it now. We got really lucky that it opened up."
Before the rain, about 200 to 300 people gathered in a grassy area behind the school to see the eclipse. They watched through a telescope set up by the school's Astronomy Club or through safety glasses. Some brought blankets and chairs while others shared pairs of glasses.
Club members were surprised at how many people attended the viewing party.
"It's a very rare event," said Ryan Tucek, a physics teacher who works with the club.
The rain drove many away, but those who stuck around got a good view. There were cheers and applause as the rain stopped and the eclipse appeared in club's 8-inch telescope.
Jason Emricko had a camera set up in hopes of recording the eclipse, but he and his wife and their Penn Township family got the best view through the club's telescope.
"I figured I'd try to see if I could video (the eclipse), but I don't think I'm going to be able to do that because of the weather," Emricko said, looking up at the clouds while his children, ages 5, 8 and 11, played. "I figured if I can record it, I can show them, 'Hey, this is what we saw.'"
Raleigh Mero, 9, refused to let his mother leave the party when it started raining.
Once the skies cleared, he gazed into the sun through a pair of safety glasses.
"He loves science," said mother Amy Mero. "He was speechless. I'm soaked, he didn't want to leave."
Maryanne Mickey of Level Green looked through the solar filter from her 10-inch telescope because the entire thing wouldn't fit in the car. Her husband, Bob Mickey, brought another smaller telescope and set it up for others to use. The couple celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary Monday.
"I just brought the filter because you can still see it, but it's just not magnified," she said.
Tucek said it was a great opportunity for community members to see an astronomical event in person.
"This was really nice to see," he said of the crowd. "I hope we can do more these things in the future."
— Renatta Signorini
More than 30 people, from preschoolers to retired Baby Boomers, attended a solar eclipse viewing party Monday at Adams Memorial Library.
Children's crafts and educational programs attracted some, including Maria Kessler of Latrobe and her daughter Miriam, 8, who is homeschooled and is interested in science. Miriam increased her understanding of the sun's power. "It shines on the moon at night to make it bright," she said.
Jeanette Bearer of Unity was glad she brought her children — Isabella, 15, and Joe, 7 — to the party as they were able to share some of the 20 pairs of glasses on hand to witness the eclipse.
Bearer recalled making a pinhole viewer from a cereal box to view a partial solar eclipse 25 years earlier while she was attending high school in the state of Indiana.
Many at the library party got help making similar viewers. But, Bearer said, "You can't get the full effect with a cereal box."
Unity residents Jim Hart and his wife, Deborah, both 67, came to the library when they missed their chance to pick up viewing glasses at local stores.
Jim, who was born June 20, has attended a summer solstice program at the Carnegie Science Center as a birthday outing. But Monday's eclipse was an experience that comes around once in a lifetime, the couple noted.
"We're not going to be around for the next one," Deborah said.
— Jeff Himler
Bud Santimyer, center, puts on a pair of eclipse glasses and looks toward the sky as the peak of the solar eclipse occurs during an eclipse viewing party at the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion on the Saint Vincent College Campus in Unity Township, Pa. on Monday Aug. 21, 2017.
Photo by Christian Tyler Randolph
The lawn surrounding the Sis & Herman Dupre Science Pavilion at St. Vincent College took on a festival atmosphere Monday as families unloaded camp chairs and blankets to join the eclipse watch party at the college just outside Latrobe.
Off to the side of the science building, children danced through a fountain as adults strained to gaze upward, while a loudspeaker blasted out a playlist ranging from "Total Eclipse of the Heart" to "The Age of Aquarius."
Although students were just beginning to drift back to the college where classes are set to resume next week, people from surrounding towns were grateful for an invitation to watch the eclipse.
In all, about 650 people over three hours gathered on the lawn where St. Vincent officials handed out eclipse glasses for the crowd to share. John Smetanka, the college's vice president for academic affairs, helped adjust the telescope for those who lined up for a different perspective.
Theresa Sabatini of Bear Rocks brought her children, Claire, 11, and Matthew, 13, to share the rare chance to view a partial solar eclipse. Science has become a family affair for them in recent weeks, she said.
"We got our glasses in advance, and we're already planning for the total eclipse on April 8, 2024," Sabatini said.
Dante Scalise, 16, and his sister, Olivia, 15, persuaded their father, Michael, to take a late lunch and drive them to the watch party.
"Ever since I missed the blood moon, I knew I was not going to miss this," Dante Scalise said after a quick glance at the sky.
While the moon never totally obliterated the sun at the college, a live feed from NASA playing in the theater inside the science building offered an opportunity to share that experience with 10,000 people who had gathered on the prairie at Beatrice, Neb., where darkness became complete at midday.
— Debra Erdley
A party atmosphere prevailed at Rostraver Public Library as patrons gathered for a view of Monday's solar eclipse. Library Director Naomi Cross said 96 people registered for the event, not counting online registrations.
"We've been planning for this all summer," said Kara Duerstein, who attended with her children, Jessica, 13, and Tyler, 10.
Brothers Benito Pesi (left), 8, and Gianni Pesi, 12, of Rostraver look at the solar eclipse through welding helmets Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, outside the Rostraver Public Library.
Photo by Stephen Huba
Duerstein of Greenock, Allegheny County, said they had talked about traveling to Hopkinsville, Ky., to be in the "path of totality" but then decided to stay closer to home.
Jessica, who described herself as an aspiring astrophysicist, volunteered at the library on Monday and helped other children make pinhole viewers and box projectors.
She said she learned about the eclipse from her seventh-grade science teacher Paul Callaghan at Elizabeth Forward Middle School.
"He was a great influence. During the end of the (school) year, we talked about what was going to happen. I went on and researched more about it," Jessica said.
Brooke Kremer, 7, of Belle Vernon could barely contain her enthusiasm upon seeing the sun almost get swallowed up by the moon.
"Daddy, I saw it! It's like a crescent," she said as she looked through special viewing glasses. "Oh my gosh, that is so pretty."
Library staff member Judy Clark, 64, of Carroll Township, Washington County, said she remembers the solar eclipse of 1979, when her husband gave her welding glasses for safe viewing. She decided not to bring them Monday.
"I didn't want to scare the children here," she said.
John Bodnar of Perryopolis, Fayette County, said his friend Flo Fagan "made" him come to the eclipse viewing event, but he didn't mind.
"I'm just happy when I see the sun come up in the morning," he said.
— Stephen Huba