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Marveling at the eclipse, across North America

University students watching the solar eclipse in Amherst, Massachusetts on Monday. From left to right are İpek Eser, Dinuka Herath, Jason Au-Duong, and Tuguldur Erdenekhuu. Photo courtesy of Tuguldur Erdenekhuu.

Amherst, Massachusetts, U.S.A. – I have never seen an eclipse before. I know the concept, even a kid in elementary school does. The moon does its lap around the Earth so many times that at some point, because of a certain angle and time, it aligns perfectly so that it momentarily blocks the view of the sun.


And yet after today, I can confidently say that my ‘‘Things To Do Before I Die’’ checklist has one line crossed off:  watching an eclipse.

Not that we had a full eclipse where I watched it. Amherst, Massachusetts got approximately 94% of what a full eclipse would look like. You could easily see that 6% though. Not on my phone camera, unfortunately, but it was there.

Plus, I was quite hesitant about taking pictures of the eclipse. A kind lady who was giving out free glasses to watch the eclipse had said, ‘‘Your camera would melt, don’t take pictures of it without a sun filter.’’

My peers with whom I went to watch the eclipse, however, took quite a bunch of pictures with their phones, no filter, and it was fine for them. Still, I was paranoid so I didn’t take any without using the eclipse glasses over the camera.

We weren’t the only ones there, in the Southweel section of the campus. It was mostly elderly people interested in astronomy and a few families rather than college students. The University of Massachusetts has a massive campus in Amherst, so it’s not surprising to not have so many students in one place.

Most of the families had their pets with them, and I was momentarily concerned for them. What if they looked up during the eclipse, out of curiosity?

‘‘It’s interesting how the behavior of the animals also changes when an eclipse happens,’’ said Dinuka Herath, an undergraduate physics major at my college. ‘‘I have even read articles about it. Dogs are pretty smart. They don’t look up when the eclipse happens.’’

We weren’t gathered in one place, but all of my friends on campus watched the event happen. The moon continues its turn around the Earth and passes over the view of our sun.

And we cheered at the peak of the eclipse. All of us who were watching it clapped. If you think about it, it was such a silly sight from the perspective of the moon. Little humanity, which is often so unreasonably cruel, watches and claps as the moon blocks the sun’s view completely for a few minutes.

The experience has a multitude of fun aspects now that I look back. I arrived at the destination earlier than my friends and sat on a rock as I waited under the scorching sun. I had made an uncalculated decision that morning and wore my puffy jacket since I assumed it would be cold like any other day.

People watch the eclipse on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. (İpek Eser/YJI)
A view of the eclipse from Amherst, Massachusetts. (İpek Eser/YJI)

An old lady approached me and asked if the other side of the rock was free.

“How many of your friends will join you?” Such a sweet thing that she immediately assumed my friends would be there, too.

‘‘It’s alright, you can sit with me,’’ I said. ‘‘It’s not like I own the rock, and the weather is really hot today.”

I got up when my friends joined me and her husband arrived to sit next to her. After the eclipse reached its peak and the hype had started to die down, we decided to leave.

As I was grabbing my jacket from the rock, the husband turned to us.

“Did you guys take a lot of pictures? Oh, not only the moon but the crowd as well. That’s the real fun part about this whole thing.”

I said yes.

“Good, good, what a sight, such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to observe.”

He turned to us again.

“Don’t forget to send those pictures you took to your parents!”

The next eclipse will be within 20 years from now, in 2044, so we had a few more opportunities to observe this astronomical occurrence.

As we were leaving, I turned to my friends.

“So uh, we are meeting in 20 years for the next one, right?”

İpek Eser is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Istanbul, Türkiye who lives in Massachusetts.


The solar eclipse as seen in Millinocket, Maine. (Charlie Wallis-Martel/YJI)

Millinocket, Maine, U.S.A. – A large crowd gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Millinocket, Maine on Monday to watch the solar eclipse.

Millinocket was in the path of totality, so viewers got the full experience.

“At first I wasn’t quite sure what to expect,” said Amanda Albanese, a middle and high school art teacher at Maine Connections Academy in Scarborough, Maine. “When we experienced the totality, I felt a sense of awe and I physically felt chills through my body. I felt a connection with the celestial event.”

People watch the eclipse in Veterans Park in Millinocket, Maine. (Charlie Wallis-Martel/YJI)

High school special education teacher Stacey Haines, who also teaches at Maine Connections Academy, shared the excitement.

“I thought it was awesome, to watch it get dark and cold and to see the ring and the stars at the same time!” said Haines. “It was just awesome.”

Charlie Wallis-Martel is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Maine.


Totality in Midlothian, Texas. (Courtney May/YJI)


Watertown, Connecticut, U.S.A. – At The Taft School, students gathered outside to watch the eclipse.
“It’s really nice to be outside again all together after a long winter,” said Rachel Solomon, a junior at the boarding school “I feel not only is this eclipse fun to look at, but experiencing it as an entire school community will definitely be memorable.”

Fiona Zimon, a senior, said, “I keep finding myself wanting to look at the eclipse without my glasses. For me, the most fascinating part is how dark it is getting outside. It looks almost like the lighting of a movie set with a spotlight.”

Lia Arnold is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Connecticut.

Toronto, Canada

New York

Jericho, New York, U.S.A. –  Environmental Science Teacher Harish Yerramsetty reflected on the eclipse and its impact on students at Jericho High School on Long Island.

The partial solar eclipse on Long Island, New York. (Jessy Siegmann/YJI)

“I thought it was really cool,” Yerramsetty said.

“I think it was a great success. Our school bought us all glasses. Everyone was out. They were experiencing a phenomenon.”

The sunlight grew dimmer and the air got colder, Yerramsetty said.

“It was really interesting,” he said.

He said he showed some students how the left side of his shadow was kind of shaky but that on the right, the outline was definite because the moon was coming from the left side.

Jessy Siegmann is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from New York.


Students at the University Laboratory High School in Urbana, Illinois, gather outside to watch the solar eclipse. (Simrah Khan/YJI)

Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A. – “The eclipse was kinda underwhelming, not gonna lie,” said Chloe Noronha-Hostler, a sophomore at the University Laboratory High School.

“I was expecting a bit more for almost totality but it was still cool to see it get darker and colder,” Noronha-Hostler said, vowing to see totality next time there is a solar eclipse. “My favorite part was how the lighting changed, like it was a really cool and kinda eerie effect. And also watching the eclipse through the eclipse glasses. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all.”

Students watch the eclipse in Urbana, Illinois. (Simrah Khan/YJI)

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, U.S.A. – For the past week, everywhere across campus, I have seen the sale of solar eclipse glasses. As a student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, I have been looking forward to being on campus during the natural phenomenon of the eclipse.

The university sat right outside of the line of total visibility with 98% magnitude visibility. Two of my classes were canceled on eclipse day as my professors said this was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
 My campus has a 24/7 Quad Cam viewing on YouTube, and I enjoyed watching the Quad gradually get busier before 2 p.m. arrived.

At around 1:45 p.m., I walked around the Quad surrounded by thousands of students awaiting the darkness.

Full sunlight on the University of Illinois Quad. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

I even spotted some of our Illinois Men’s Basketball team who recently made it to the Elite Eight in the March Madness competition!

Gradually until 2:05 p.m., everything was becoming darker. It was like looking at the world around you with sunglasses on, a tinted viewing of reality.

The Quad at the University of Illinois when the sky darkened during Monday’s solar eclipse. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

Promptly at 2:05 p.m., around 30,000 students at the University of Illinois who were gathered to watch started to applaud.

Then followed the traditional “I-L-L” and “I-N-I” call and response whenever there is a mass gathering of university students.

The eclipse lasted approximately 2 minutes and 33 seconds in Champaign.

Promptly, the world around us returned to its normal color as students rushed on to their next class.

I will always remember my 2024 solar eclipse experience surrounded by thousands of college students.

Who knows what each of us will be doing with our lives when the next eclipse passes in 2044?

Norah Springborn is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International from Illinois.

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