Well-watched eclipse a good bonding session

People gather for many reasons: a political rally, a sporting event or a county fair.

These and other events have happened on the local level recently, but how many are shared between the community and the entire United States?

Millions of people across the country watched Monday’s total solar eclipse, which was seen from Oregon to South Carolina. In most areas, though, people saw “only” a partial eclipse.

In Marquette, it was a 75 percent eclipse.

That was enough to attract hordes of people to Northern Michigan University’s West Science Building where they looked at the eclipse through a telescope equipped with a solar filter and watched a live-streamed NASA event on a large screen.

Others stood on the lawn, watching the eclipse transpire through special glasses, or viewed an image projected through special Sunspotters or even just a colander.

The folks who had their own glasses were willing to share them with people who didn’t, prompting an array of positive and amazed responses.

Little kids who didn’t realize the significance of the moment also had fun making their own eclipse-related crafts or visiting the portable planetarium called Starlab.

It wasn’t just a few diehard amateur astronomers that showed up either. A line of people waiting to look through the telescope went out the door, and most of them probably can’t tell the difference between the constellations Perseus and Taurus.

Throughout town, people who had their own eclipse glasses witnessed the event as well, taking time out in their work day to look upward. How often does that happen?

Following the eclipse, people showed their enthusiasm via Facebook, uploading a plethora of photos and videos.

In some areas of totality, when the big moment came and the sky went dark — although not completely dark — cheers went up. In fact, a local amateur astronomer pointed out that such an observation is best experienced in a crowd.

That could be said for the eclipse in general, regardless of whether it was total or partial.

Considering the number of people who came to NMU’s West Science Building, it also was a chance to learn and be enthusiastic about science, age notwithstanding.

With the national turmoil that’s taken place lately, it’s gratifying to see people converge in such an upbeat way.

It’s too bad the next total solar eclipse visible over the continental United States won’t be until April 8, 2024. In the meantime, the people who witnessed the Great American Eclipse of 2017 will have their memories.