All eyes were on the skies as Dallas’ Perot Museum celebrated a partial solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21.
The eclipse was the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in over 30 years. The full shadow of the moon traveled from Oregon to South Carolina and was visible all across the United States. Although Dallas was not in the total eclipse path, residents still saw a partial eclipse with about 75 percent of the sun covered. The eclipse reached its maximum peak over North Texas at about 1:10 p.m. and ended by 2:40 p.m. During the eclipse, the Perot Museum held a free viewing party in the courtyard with several booths set up to teach young people more about the sun and the moon as well as multiple options for viewing the eclipse.
Mary Baerg, chief experience officer for the Perot Museum, said that the museum wanted to take advantage of this rare opportunity to celebrate and teach about solar eclipses.
“[Solar eclipses] are happening all the time all over the world, but it’s rare for them to happen in the United States,” Baerg said. “The last time that we saw a total eclipse that was viewable in the continental United States was 38 years ago. The time before that, when it was viewable from all over the continental U.S., was over 100 years ago.”
The safest way to view a solar eclipse is through specially designed glasses, which the museum had in limited supply. However, the museum also offered other means to view the eclipse.
“We have pinhole projectors so people can see what’s happening and can see it safely,” Baerg said. “You can also make your own. We have on our website a video that you can do at any time. We also have the NASA live feed going on in the theater right now.”
Some of the attendees also brought special cameras and gadgets of their own. Sana Sulaiman from The Colony brought a 3D-printed pinhole viewer in the shape of Texas.
“I don’t know the exact science behind it, but the light of the sun gets focused through the pinhole so you can see the shadow of the moon passing over the light of the sun,” Sulaiman said. “It’ll focus that into an image, so you don’t have to look at the sun.” She also added this was the first time she has seen an eclipse in person.
“I think it’s really cool,” Sulaiman said. “It’s not something you see every day.”
Meredith Dills, a pharmaceutical sales rep from Dallas, brought an unusual item to view the eclipse – a kitchen colander.
“There’s a trick I learned in elementary school where you poke a hole in a piece of paper, and it makes an eclipse shadow,” Dills explained. “Well, a colander has a lot of holes in it, so it makes a lot of little eclipse shadows of the ground.”
Dills first saw an eclipse when she was a little girl and is glad to be able to share this eclipse with her boys.
“I remember when I was in second or third grade, there was [an eclipse],” Dills said. “I have twin little boys now, and they were really excited to come and see it.”
Those who missed Monday’s partial eclipse will not have to wait long for the next one. The next solar eclipse viewable from the U.S. will take place on April 8, 2024. During this next eclipse, Dallas is expected to see not just a partial, but a total solar eclipse as the moon’s shadow will pass over North Texas and the eastern half of the country.
Baerg hoped the day’s event would get more people interested in science as a whole.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to come together,” Baerg said. “They’re calling it ‘The Great American Eclipse,’ because everybody in the United States will be able to have some view of it. If it gets people more excited about science, looking up at the sky, being aware, and curious about the world around them, then we’ve all won.”