It’s only March, and already NASA has been having a heck of a year. It’s been a great year for space in general — we’ve had the discovery of gravitational waves, the end of astronaut Scott Kelly’s year in space, and now, a total solar eclipse. NASA and The Exploratorim caught the whole thing from Micronesia, one of many Southeast Asian countries where the eclipse reached “totality,” or a complete blackout of the sun by the moon, and oh man, was it a party — homemade props, shirtless high-school principals, and a whole lot of joyful science.
First off, the eclipse was incredible. Cloudy skies gave way to a perfect clear view about 10 minutes before totality, and the sun fired off a gigantic, majestic solar prominence right as it slipped behind the moon.
Second, The Exploratorium’s hosts, Paul Doherty and Robyn Higdon were perfect proxies for the childlike glee that comes from watching the sun go out in the middle of the day. Doherty and Higdon kept the facts coming, switching between telescope cameras and stand up hosting, explaining how confused birds started flying their morning feeding patterns in the middle of the afternoon. Their guests killed it too — NASA’s Troy Cline rolled onto the Exploratorium’s set on a runway in Woleai, Micronesia, wearing a traditional flower-crown and bearing home-made mobiles, cardboard paper props, and an Oculus VR headset. Check this guy out.
The Exploratorium staff and NASA astronomers spent the previous day teaching classrooms of Micronesian elementary and high school students, many of whom showed up the next day to watch the totality with the scientists.
They instructed the kids (and adults) on how to view the eclipse safely and passed around disposable eclipse-glasses and filters — everyone was loving it.
Allentino, the principal of the local high school, came out and spoke to NASA afterward, dressed casually like all of the other locals.
The crowd cheered, chanted, and gasped during the eclipse, while Robyn and Paul kept up a commentary. The decisive moment before totality — where the sun is completely obscured, and you can watch the eclipse with the naked eye — was incredible.
After a few minutes of darkness, the sun crept back out from behind the moon, and the eclipse was over. And there’s good news — the next total solar eclipse is passing directly over the United States, no international flight necessary.