by Jessica Jervis-Viville

Children excitedly jogged up a large hill. Parents followed behind carrying lawn chairs and blankets. University of West Georgia students carried their backpacks and textbooks as they kept their highly coveted plastic safety glasses clutched to their chests. One of the most highly anticipated events of the year was about to unfold.

On Monday, August 21, more than 5,000 visitors overall journeyed to the UWG Observatory for their chance at a glimpse of the historic Great American Eclipse.

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“I’m so excited to have the opportunity to view the eclipse, and I wouldn’t have been able to if it wasn’t for UWG providing the glasses,” said Heather Thompson, a UWG student.

Even though the eclipse could not be viewed in totality from Carrollton, there was still a feeling of elation that quickly spread throughout the crowd.

“I’m really into this kind of stuff—solar subjects and anything that has to do with the sky,” explained Chinemenma Egekonye, a student at UWG. “Since I couldn’t afford to go to Oregon, this is the next best thing”

Prior to the eclipse, the observatory had various telescopes set up, where people could view the moon and sun.

“Astronomy and physics are the understanding of the natural world around use, and the codification of that world,” explained Ben Jenkins, assistant director of the UWG Observatory. “It is worth understanding our mechanics and where we came from and were we are going. So much of our modern life is based in physics in some way or form—your cell phone, your vehicles, the GPS you use to get around. Who wouldn't want to understand that better?”

A common feeling throughout the crowd was the importance of being present for this event. People traveled from all over the city just to be at the UWG Observatory.

“This is an event that doesn’t happen very often,” exclaimed Kelsey Kuehl, a UWG student. “I just wanted to see what it was about and be in place where I could get a clear view.”

It seemed suddenly the buzz began to die down. Everyone paused in his or her tracks. The glasses they had been holding so tightly were quickly placed on their faces. The sky started to turn colors of blue, dark blues and orange.

While the eclipse was a spectacular visual experience, it was also a period of reflection for others.

“It made me feel small compared to this big universe,” explained Rashard Jones, a UWG student. “We are such a small part of it, when you think about it.”

Chairs and blankets started to be folded. Glasses were removed from faces. The mass exodus began. Jenkins took a moment to reflect on the importance to reflect on the importance of these celestial events.

“As an astronomer I have always had an appreciation of the orbital mechanics involved and the fact that we are alive at a time where this is possible for our planet,” he said. “To me the larger impact of this event is the amount of awareness and outreach we were able to provide to persons who are not in the field. We were able to use this incredible opportunity of the chance alignment to bring together persons of all background for many places into one space and share in the smallness of our being in a way benefiting the wonder of the event. To me, the event was just as much the eclipse as the shared experience of seeing it as a part of humanity.”

The next total solar eclipse will occur in 2024.

Posted on August 22, 2017