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American Eclipse Proves Crowd Pleaser In Bay City

Delta College Planetarium Holds Viewing Party Attended by Hundreds

August 21, 2017       Leave a Comment
By: Stephen Kent

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The sky conditions were not "perfect", but they were certainly good enough. Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Bay City to watch the eclipse from the Delta College Planetarium. Others were in the park or walking the area. There was hardly a parking space to be had in that vicinity.

The viewing ran from 1:00 to 3:00. The eclipse started at 1:01 pm. The peak came at 2:24 and the show was over at 3:44. Of course, Bay City only experienced an 80% coverage. Reports from the area of totality were much more spectacular, but what we had was good anyway.

To really appreciate the eclipse you needed to have viewing glasses. Those had a special plastic film that only allowed a fraction of the light to come through. With those it was great. People willing to stand in a long line looked through one of the specially equipped telescopes for a better view.

The traditional viewing method was with a pinhole viewer. There are plans galore on the internet, but the most common was to use a cereal box. You open the box and put white paper on the inside bottom. Cut square holes in the opposite two corners. Leave one open and cover the other with tin foil in which you punch a small hole. Looking away from the sun, the light enters the pinhole and projects an image on the bottom of the box. You look through the other hole.

The pinhole viewers were OK, but not ideal. They were difficult to aim and focus, and the image was very small. One of the better viewers was a simple piece of cardboard and a paper plate. The hole was punched in the cardboard and it was held above the white plate and focused.

The very best views were with the glasses. Perfect resolution and image! A few people had welders helmets or just the glass from the helmets. Those provided larger areas to look through and also gave a great image (even if it was green).

Reports from around the country talked about looking at the ground where leaves in a tree would focus a kaleidoscope of eclipsed sun images on the ground. We never saw any of those here, but friends from other parts of the country have sent pictures.

Inside the Planetarium, in Explorer's Hall, the staff projected the feed from NASA's TV show of the event. For anyone wanting the science, data, and facts, that was great. And the pictures showed things you would never see otherwise. But seeing the event with our own eyes outside was still a must.

Regardless of where you watched the eclipse, it was a once in a lifetime event for most folks. The youngsters will get the chance to see another one someday, but for many folks, this was the last time they'll get the chance.


Brad Morse shows the pinhole viewer he's testing

One of several types of telescope viewers for the public.

One of many cardboard and film viewers.

Glasses style viewers.


The lines started inside the Planetarium then went out to the yard.

The NASA feed was projected in Explorer's Hall where staff narrated and answered questions.

When totality reached the NASA site the crowd in Bay City cheered.

NASA provided some of the best views as well as hardcore data, statistics, and information.
The show came from Casper, Wyoming.

10 year old Isaac List had a good idea with a full welder's helmet.
The view from inside was great... and hands free!

The yard behind the Planetarium was filled with people.
Some used the telescopes, others had, or shared, viewing glasses.

Many people gathered in the park across from the Planetarium.

Rose Udehn brought a number 10 welder's glass.
"They recommend a higher number, but this is very close", she said.
Those sharing it with her agreed.

The view through Rose's welder's glass was just fine.

While many people made somewhat fancier pinhole viewers,
a simple hole in a piece of cardboard did a fine job
of projecting the image on an old paper plate.

This was one of the larger events at the Planetarium.

Many people tried various methods of taking pictures with cameras or phones.
Some worked, many didn't.

Dad tried it first before passing the viewers to the girls.


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Stephen Kent

Steve Kent and his family have lived in Bay City for 40 years. He is VP of Technical Services at MMCC which produces MyBayCity.Com. Kent is active in many Bay City civic organizations.

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