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Eclipsing Expectations

On-campus viewing event draws hundreds to campus, observatory

Eight-year-old Andrew DeLory loves everything about astronomy. And there was no better place for the Whitman youngster to watch the recent solar eclipse than the BSU Observatory.

Andrew, who learned about the eclipse through videos and apps, was so excited that he woke up well before 7 a.m. It was like Christmas morning, except the “gifts” weren’t beneath the tree, but up in the sky: a rare alignment of the Earth, sun and moon.

“It’s making this once-in-a-lifetime event special,” mom Sarah, ’06, G’17, said of bringing her son to her alma mater for the celestial event. “I think it is wonderful that they’re making connections with the community.”

Sitting on blankets, benches and Adirondack chairs across campus, people donned special glasses to gaze skyward as the eclipse progressed. The university distributed thousands of the glasses that enabled people to look at the sun without damaging their eyes. High atop the Dana-Mohler Faria Center for Science and Mathematics, the observatory opened its roof decks to the BSU community and the public.

Some of the hundreds of students gathered in University Park even started a countdown to the peak moment when the moon blocked out an impressive 92 percent of the sun.

“The most exciting part is seeing the community all be excited about it,” said Tiago Filadelfo, ’25, an observatory student worker who ran a telescope in University Park.

Tiago is studying biology and chemistry but said working at the observatory gave him a new hobby and passion.

Janelle Murphy, ’26, a photonics and optical engineering and management major, credited her work at the observatory with improving her science communication skills. Those were on full display as she helped eclipse watchers use telescopes on a roof deck.

“It’s amazing,” she said of BSU experiences outside of the classroom. “It’s really encouraging and exposes me to so many aspects of my career. ... What I really like about Bridgewater State are the opportunities and ability to learn from those opportunities.”

In addition to the eclipse event, the observatory regularly hosts evening programs where youth groups and the public can look in telescopes at wonders of the night sky.

“It’s nice to have an audience of people who love astronomy just like we do,” said Joshua Andrews, ’26, who is studying photonics and astrophysics with an eye toward a career in aerospace engineering.

Those astronomy buffs include humanities students Delia French and Emma Kershaw, who came to Monday’s viewing early to stake out a prime location on a roof deck. The freshmen missed out on seeing a 2017 solar eclipse, and they weren’t going to let another opportunity pass by.

“It’s nice that they do this for all students,” said Delia, a graphic design major. “Even if you’re not a science major, you can come up here.”

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