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Holland Christian watches eclipse on first day of school

By Erin Dietzer/The Holland Sentinel • Aug 22, 2017 at 10:00 AM

HOLLAND — The first day of school had more excitement this year than usual for Holland Christian students: They got to experience the first total eclipse in the United States since 1979.

“What better way to start the year then with something like this?” said South Side Christian principal Miska Rynsburger. “This is the most exciting first day of school I’ve ever had.”

Students at South Side were enlisted as “citizen scientists” via a NASA app Rynsburger had. Throughout the day, students helps Rynsburger take the decreasing temperature of the outside, take pictures of the sky and report the weather conditions in their area. All that data will be sent to NASA.

“One thing that’s great is that the teachers are so excited about this too,” Rynsburger said. “When they’re excited, it’s contagious.”

Staff at South Side exercised caution to ensure the natural science lesson could go on without any students damaging their eyes. Recess was held inside so kids wouldn’t be watching the eclipse unsupervised. Then, classes were lead out in groups with protective glasses. Some made shoebox projectors to observe the eclipse.

Reactions from the students were immediate, with loud, continuing choruses of “whoa.”

“It’s a crescent,” shouted one of Sandy Johnson’s kindergarteners.

“It’s a banana,” shouted another.

Millions of Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.

The moon hasn’t thrown this much shade at the U.S. since 1918, the country’s last coast-to-coast total eclipse. The 1979 eclipse only drew five states in the Northwest into total darkness.

On Monday, the temperature dropped, birds quieted down, crickets chirped and the stars came out in the middle of the day as the line of darkness raced 2,600 miles across the continent in about 90 minutes, bringing forth oohs, aahs, shouts and screams.

In Boise, Idaho, where the sun was more than 99 percent blocked, people clapped and whooped, and the street lights came on briefly, while in Nashville, Tennessee, people craned their necks at the sky and knocked back longneck beers at Nudie’s Honky Tonk bar.

Passengers aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean watched it unfold as Bonnie Tyler sang her 1983 hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

At the Nashville Zoo, the giraffes started running around crazily in circles when darkness fell, and the flamingos huddled together, though zookeepers said it wasn’t clear whether it was the eclipse or the noisy, cheering crowd that spooked them.

At the White House, despite all the warnings from experts about the risk of eye damage, President Donald Trump took off his eclipse glasses and looked directly at the sun.

It was the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history, with many Americans staking out prime viewing spots and settling onto blankets and lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality — the line of deep shadow created when the sun is completely obscured except for the ring of light known as the corona.

The shadow — a corridor just 60-70 miles wide — came ashore in Oregon and then traveled diagonally across the Midwest to South Carolina, with darkness from the totality lasting only about two to three wondrous minutes in any one spot.

The rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central America and the top of South America.

With 200 million people within a day’s drive from the path of totality, towns and parks saw big crowds. Skies were clear along most of the route, to the relief of those who feared cloud cover would spoil this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

NASA reported 4.4 million people were watching its TV coverage midway through the eclipse, the biggest livestream event in the space agency’s history.

The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2024. The next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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