Members of the class of 2021 are likely to never forget their first day of class at Wingate University. The Great American Eclipse brought out scores of students and faculty and staff members to see the moon block out 98 percent of the sun’s rays above Wingate on Monday afternoon.

Students looking up at the eclipseReginald Brown, a freshman from Cheraw, South Carolina, got out of a communications class at 2 p.m., just in time to join throngs of students for a viewing party in the Academic Quad.

“This is really cool,” said Brown, who plans to major in psychology. “I’m really interested in science. It’s one thing to learn it from a textbook. It’s another thing to see it.”

The eclipse traversed the continental United States, with the path of “totality” – or 100 percent blockage – moving from Oregon to South Carolina. That meant that Wingate University’s three campuses were in good position to see a rare spectacle, if not total blockage. The Hendersonville campus experienced a whopping 99.8 percent blockage. Ballantyne experienced 98.4 percent, slightly more than Wingate.

By 2 p.m., the moon had crossed well into the path of the sun, projecting a “crescent sun” for Wingate students and employees, who were each supplied with one complimentary pair of eclipse glasses. Solar telescopes were set up in the Quad so students could get a safe, close-up view of the eclipse, which at its peak caused streetlamps to come on and prompted cicadas to begin a buzzing chorus.

Macie Estes, a sophomore elementary education major from Indian Trail, watched on a blanket in the Quad alongside her best friend, Hannah Ziegler, a junior human services major also from Indian Trail. “I look forward to one day getting to tell my future students that I got to experience it,” Estes said.

“I’m blown away,” Ziegler said. “We’ll road trip to see the next one.” The next total solar eclipse on U.S. soil will occur in 2024, when the path of totality will cross from Texas to New York.

Couple at eclipse-viewing party at BallantyneThis year’s eclipse was special for several reasons: For one thing, it was visible only from the United States – hence the name “the Great American Eclipse.” It is the first total solar eclipse in the continental United States since 1979 and the first to traverse the continent since 1918. It is also the first total eclipse to touch only American soil since the U.S. gained its independence in 1776, a feat that won’t happen again until the year 2316.

The University’s Ballantyne campus put on a massive viewing party for the local community, with 4,000 to 5,000 people showing up for face painting, popcorn, a photo booth and, for the first 1,000 people, a free pair of eclipse glasses.

“Months of planning went into making this event successful,” said Valerie Secker, client-relations specialist and office manager at WU Ballantyne. “It exceeded our expectations, and the excitement spread like wildfire.”

Learn more about predicting astrophysical phenomena by taking chemistry and physics classes at Wingate University.

August 21, 2017