Kim Harms & Joe Hooper
Darkness fell upon campus a little earlier than usual today as the college bore witness to a total solar eclipse, the first such event to occur in the Kansas City area since the early 1800s. Organizers and onlookers alike were delighted to catch a brief glimpse of the rare solar event from Commons Courtyard and Chiller Hill before Mother Nature spoiled the view.
The eclipse’s path of totality was 70 miles wide and crossed through 14 different states. The college celebrated the event with a variety of celestial-themed foods including Moon Pies, SunChips and “eclipse cookies,” along with distributing eclipse glasses to ensure safe viewing.
Doug Patterson, an astronomy professor at the college, hosted nearly 100 people to view the eclipse from his home just outside of Higginsville, Missouri. Patterson was delighted to find the weather cooperating with his viewing.
“We had crystal skies here, we had totality and everything,” Patterson said. “We had two minutes and ten seconds of totality. I tell you what, it seemed like two seconds. You think, oh, two minutes, that’s a long time. It’s a long time if you’re waiting for your leftovers in your microwave.”
According to Patterson, the last solar eclipse in this area happened over two centuries ago. For many, the solar eclipse was a once-in-a-lifetime event.
“The last eclipse that went all the way across our country was back in 1918,” Patterson said. “The last eclipse that passed through the Kansas City area was 1806. This is an event for those of us in the Kansas City area that truly is a once in an every-other lifetime event, it’s incredible to be able to experience this.”
Not all who set out to see the rare solar event were lucky enough to see the eclipse in its totality. Shortly before the event peaked at 1:08 p.m., a dense blanket of clouds wandered just far enough to the northeast to block the view of those watching from the college.
Franco Aguilar, a student at the college, watched the eclipse from campus. One of Aguilar’s classes let out early for the special occasion.
“I was expecting to get a more clear view of [the eclipse], but instead [the sky] was cloudy,” Aguilar said. “[The eclipse] was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m still a little disappointed the sky wasn’t as clear.”
Student Dejunae Cole chose to watch the eclipse on TV. Cole prepared for the eclipse by keeping track of time.
“I knew I was going to watch [the eclipse] on the news, so I made sure to set a timer on my phone,” Cole said.
Cole had high expectations for the eclipse due to all of the hype. Unfortunately, those expectations were not met.
“I thought [the eclipse] was going to be where I can’t see anything, and that did not happen,” Cole said. “Truthfully, I think it was overhyped. I thought it was going to be life-changing.”
Those in the Kansas City area who were let down and hoping for another chance to see a total solar eclipse are, for the most part, out of luck. According to timeanddate.com, it takes an average of 375 years for a total solar eclipse to happen in the same location.
Partial solar eclipses, however, are far more common. The next partial solar eclipse to cross the region will do so in less than seven years.
“The next time we’ll get to experience something close to this area is April 8, 2024,” Patterson said. “It’s going to be partial here, but totality will pass just to the east of us. I’m already starting to lay plans to be in Indianapolis that day.”
If you are interested in learning more about the solar eclipse or the college’s astronomy department, visit the JCCC Astronomy Facebook page at facebook.com/jccc.astronomy or their department page at blogs.jccc.edu/astronomy.
Managing editor Joe Hooper contributed to this report