Thousands come to MSU for solar eclipse despite rain and clouds

Students watch the solar eclipse on Monday with special glasses (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)
Staff Writer

Despite mid-morning showers and high temperatures, thousands made their way to the Mississippi State University Drill Field on Monday to watch the 2017 solar eclipse.

The event - which was the first total solar eclipse to be seen in the U.S. in nearly a century - generated worldwide buzz, and although Starkville only saw a partial eclipse, the line to get special glasses for the event stretched across the field as anxious skywatchers eagerly awaited the rare celestial event.

Bay Springs native Curtis Prehn, 21, stood drenched from the rain but was one of the first to secure a pair of eclipse glasses and expressed his excitement for the rare opportunity to see the moon at least partially block out the sun over Starkville.

“I’ve been here since about 10 a.m. and the line started forming about 10:39, and that was a pretty quick rush and it probably lined up to the Lee Statue and just got longer from there,” he said. “I’ve never experienced one before.”

The start of the partial eclipse began at 11:56 a.m. and maximum eclipse occurred at 1:27 p.m. The partial eclipse officially ended at 2:54 p.m.

Starkville saw 89 percent eclipse total during the event.

Assistant professor of Spanish Sol Pelaez brought her son to the Drill Field on Monday and stood looking to the sky with her eclipse glasses and a wide smile when the clouds finally passed to give a last-minute look at the eclipse.

“I love it,” she said. “I thought it was going to be darker but I really like it. It’s very cool to see and I’m here with my kid so it’s fun.”

Associate Professor of Astrophysics Angelle Tanner was one of the primary coordinators of the event and could be seen darting through the large crowd giving updates on the status of the eclipse.

Tanner said university officials brought 1,000 glasses for the viewing, which came up well short for the thousands of people in attendance.

Hundreds braved the rain as it fell during mid-morning and a little after 11 a.m., those waiting were informed there would be no more glasses given out because of a shortage. Prior to stopping the giveaway, officials had to limit the glasses to one pair per group instead of one per individual.

Volunteers also made the best of the situation by tying pairs of glasses to the pop-up tents with yarn so viewers without their own pair could line up and take in the eclipse one at a time.

“There were a few bad apples that didn’t know how to share, but I was very happy and maybe next time in seven years we can get the administration to buy us 20,000 glasses, because we really needed 30,000 because that’s every student and faculty member,” Tanner said.

The next total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States on April 8, 2024.

Tanner thanked the university for its cooperation and said mostly everything went well despite the rain and internet issues disrupting the live stream.

“I hope people brought their kids out, I know some people did,” Tanner said. “I just can’t control the weather but I’m so thankful people came out and were very patient with us as we waited on the clouds to go away.”