Library's eclipse party includes local experts, NASA

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published August 21, 2017

 The moon blocks out part of the sun Aug. 21.

The moon blocks out part of the sun Aug. 21.

Photo by Sean Work

It had been almost 40 years since the last solar eclipse, and the public was ready for another one.

On Aug. 21, community members from the Grosse Pointes and surrounding areas took to the skies at the Grosse Pointe Public Library Woods Branch, in Grosse Pointe Woods, and Ewald Branch, in Grosse Pointe Park, to watch the much-talked-about solar eclipse.

According to the website eclipse2017.nasa.gov, the celestial event is a solar eclipse in which the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for up to approximately three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location.  

Early in the day, the website stated that all of North America would be treated to an eclipse of the sun. The path was to stretch from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside the path would still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk. People all over the country viewed the historic moment.

The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979. Grosse Pointe Public Library patrons registered for the 2017 event in advance to receive the solar-filtered eclipse glasses to view the eclipse safely. Because of how the moon and sun aligned, the metro Detroit area saw a partial eclipse rather than a total one.

The GPPL was selected as one of more than 2,000 libraries nationwide to partner with NASA’s Eclipse Library outreach program for the solar eclipse. According to Woods Branch Manager Patricia McClary, nearly 200 people signed up between the two branches to attend the event. She added that many attendees brought more people with them than had originally been registered, and she expected a crowd of 400 people between the two libraries.

“I think the library is excited with the community response,” McClary said. “We can’t say enough how happy we are the community wanted to hang with us and celebrate the solar eclipse.”

To help attendees get lost in space, Mark Kedzior, first vice president and program chairperson of the Warren Astronomical Society, set up four telescopes outside the Woods library, and his son, Adam, set up three on the Ewald grounds. The Warren Astronomical Society is a nonprofit organization of amateur astronomers that serves the metro Detroit area. The WAS members used specially filtered telescopes for the library visitors to safely observe the partial eclipse outdoors.

“It’s an astronomical event. We’re looking at the nature of the solar system,” Kedzior said. “Everything is lining up just perfectly. It does affect nature. Birds will start chirping. They think it’s night.”

While a total eclipse could be viewed in certain parts of the country, Kedzior said, “Here we will see 80 percent of it.” He also said that with a total eclipse, it was possible to see the planets.

“That depends on the condition of the sky,” Kedzior said. “The brightest will be Venus. Hopefully, everyone got good weather throughout the country to see this. There are eclipses that happen frequently, but not in the U.S. and other parts of the world.”

Souvenir glow-in-the-dark wristbands were given out Monday to commemorate the event. Library staff also set up space-themed craft activities for children, a children’s movie and games. A livestream of NASA’s coverage of the event was available on large screens at both libraries.

Theresa Zuerblis and her daughter, Julia Zuerblis, 11, of Grosse Pointe Park, and Dorothy Dombrowski and her daughters, Abigail, 11, and Emma, 8, of Grosse Pointe Woods, attended the library viewing together.

“It’s a rare event,” said Theresa Zuerblis, hoping her daughter would “be inspired and in awe of nature.”

“I think it’s a learning experience for them and something they’ll remember as adults,” Dorothy Dombrowski said.

“I think it will be cool to be dark in the middle of the day,” Emma Dombrowski said.

“I just really want to see the solar eclipse,” Julia Zuerblis said. “I’ve never seen one before.”

“I hope the clouds aren’t in the way so we can see it all,” Abigail Dombrowski said.

Several WAS members traveled to other states to view the eclipse’s path. Another WAS member was at Brandenburg Park in Chesterfield Township, and a still another WAS member was at Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills.

The GPPL, which has a partnership with WAS, offers telescope workshops and viewing events throughout the year. Library patrons with a valid library card may borrow a telescope from the library. Kedzior assists the library staff with caring for and updating the library’s collection of telescopes.

“We try to make the telescopes family-friendly and easy to use,” Kedzior said.

The library solar eclipse event was scheduled from 1-3 p.m. The Ewald crowd wrapped everything up at about 2:45 p.m., and those who gathered at Woods finished at about 3:20 p.m. According to Kedzior, the sky cooperated near the 2:30 p.m. eclipse timeline, but the sky started to cloud over a bit after 3 p.m.

For more information on the Warren Astronomical Society, visit www.warrenastro.org.