Solar Eclipse Viewing Party

Solar Eclipse Viewing Party, Thinkery - Austin, Texas

Solar Eclipse Viewing Party, Thinkery – Austin, Texas

The solar eclipse shadow coverage was a modest 65% in Austin. But with the first solar eclipse in the U.S. in 40 years, and the first in 99 years to sweep the entire width from the Pacific to the Atlantic, I had to cover this unusual event. The big question? What kind of photo should I create for this blog post. After all, this is, first and foremost, a photography blog.

With a modest amount of shadow coverage, I wasn’t going to invest any big bucks for special camera filters. And, I’m sure the people with the big lenses and telescopes can do a better job. I decided to focus on the people at a viewing event instead.

I found the perfect place with an awesome viewing party. It was at the Thinkery. What sounds like a Silicon Valley Think-tank is actually the new name for the Austin Children’s Museum. The museum moved from downtown to an impressive facility at the Mueller Development, just north-east of the central business district. With two grown boys, it’s been years since I’ve gone and it was the first time to visit this new location.

The line for the museum curved around the block as I conveniently stopped by around lunch time. I’m sure the added enticement of free solar glasses for the first 200 visitors, sure helped. Children, families and people of all ages waited excitedly. Makeshift viewing devices and free viewing cards with a pin-hole, kept people interested. The energetic staff from the Thinkery entertained the kids with bubble blowing and demonstrations of proper viewing techniques. It was a festive mood.

This is my second solar eclipse. I vaguely remember one when I was little. Internet research revealed that it happened in March of 1970, where the path of totality ran up the east coast and right by New York City. I was only 6-years-old back then but I still remember the street lights turning on at the hight of the spectacle. I probably didn’t have any special equipment back then, not even a cardboard pin-hole viewer. But, since my eyesight is intact, I guess my mom told me not to look at the sun directly.

Honestly, if you didn’t follow the news, even at its peak at 1:10pm, you wouldn’t notice anything different. With careful observation, I saw crescent-shaped highlights in the dappled shade, cast by trees. Keeping watch of the temperature, there was a several degree drop which happened toward the end of the event. I’m looking forward to 2024. That’s when the total solar eclipse passes through the heart of Texas.

My original photo idea was to capture a group of onlookers, all with those magical cardboard glasses, all looking up in unison. But the glass holders were sparse. Luckily a generous staff member shared her glasses with the folks in line. I decided a matrix of individual observers would make an arguably more creative alternative to my original plan.

As you can see, there’s a wonderful cross-section of young and not-so-young, female and male. Most look happy, some even astonished. This was science in action and a way to bring people together. And, there was a no better place than the Thinkery, a museum for children and the young at heart.

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