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West Jordan Journal

Eclipse viewing party brings out the science geek in everyone

Nov 07, 2023 04:00PM ● By Peri Kinder

Jeronimo Soto, Juan Alajandro Contreras, Agustin Castillo Jr. and Agustin Castillo Sr. watch their first eclipse at the viewing party held Oct. 14 at Sunset Ridge Middle School. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

Sunset Ridge Middle School science teacher Erin Clelland was thrilled when students and their families attended the annular solar eclipse viewing party held at the school on the morning of Oct. 14.

“This doesn’t happen often, especially an annular eclipse, so we need to have our students looking at this kind of stuff,” she said. “It’s real-world and they need to experience this because we probably won’t ever see it again in our lifetime. It’s really, really rare. The planets have to align, truly, for this type of an eclipse.”

Another annular solar eclipse won’t be seen in Utah for another 54 years. A partial solar eclipse will pass over Utah in 2029 and a total solar eclipse will pass over in 2045.

Mark Schiszler, who also teaches science at Sunset Ridge Middle, said the viewing party was offered to get kids excited about a science current event, and to have a safe way to view the partial annular solar eclipse. Those who attended had access to solar-viewing glasses and a display of information about what causes different kinds of eclipses.

“The Moon is farther away, so it appears smaller than the Sun and so you get a ring,” Schiszler said in explanation of an annular eclipse. “When it’s closer, the Moon is larger and blocks out the Sun almost completely. It’s just one of those weird phenomenon in the universe where the planet just happens to be about the same size as the Sun.”

Some students and their families came to the viewing party just to pick up the solar-viewing glasses and take them home to watch the progress of the Moon across the Sun, while others remained at the school.

“When I was in elementary school, there was an eclipse in the southern hemisphere and my teacher talked about how people travel from all over the world to go see eclipses and I thought, ‘Wow, if I ever get the chance, I’m going to see one!’” West Jordan resident Georgina Butts said. 

She and her family traveled to southern Utah in 2012 for the last annular solar eclipse and to Idaho in 2017 for the last total solar eclipse and were excited to watch an eclipse they didn’t have to travel far to see.

West Jordan resident Agustin Castillo brought his family to the viewing party to see their first eclipse.

“This is a good experience for my family,” Castillo said. “It’s the first time to watch the eclipse. I’ve never seen an eclipse before. This is great.”

His son, also named Agustin, and who is an eighth grader at Sunset Ridge Middle said, “My experience was good because I came with my friends and with my family and I see the thing that not happen every day.”

Both Schiszler and Clelland took the opportunity to educate those in attendance, pointing out the change in temperature and in the shape of shadows as the Moon passed over the Sun.

Clelland hoped students appreciated the unique experience and that they had fun.

“You don’t have to be a science teacher to love this,” she said at the event. “You don’t have to be a science geek, you don’t have to be in a science class—just look at this, this is marvelous!”

She said the solar viewing glasses leftover from the viewing party will be used to let students view the partial eclipse which will be visible from Utah next April.

“That will be during the school day so we’ll be able to take the kids outside,” Clelland said. λ