The solar eclipse Aug. 21 may have been a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event, but the star of the show nationwide, it seemed, was the special viewing “glasses” for Monday’s solar eclipse event. Stores nationwide and online sold out quickly with viewers lining up for hours to purchase an elusive pair.
Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) was no different, with a run on the free glasses provided courtesy of MWR at the Solar Eclipse Party on the Parade Field; the party was sponsored by the Dahlgren General Library.
Despite handing out more than 700 pairs of the protective eyewear at the field and even more at the Library earlier in the day, there were several hundred additional viewers who turned out for the celestial event who missed the freebie. Fortunately, those who had gotten in the line early enough were more than happy to share with the other employees, service and family members who weren’t able to get a pair.
Willie, a Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) employee, and his wife, Tamara, were some of the very first in line and were able to score a pair of the elusive eyewear. They had been in line for more than an hour -lining up at 12:30 p.m. — to ensure that they received a pair. When asked if waiting for so long in the heat of the day for the eyewear had been worth it, he was quick to retort, “To protect my eye sight? You bet!”
The event marked the first time in 26 years that a total solar eclipse was visible from the contiguous United States and states in the 70 mile swathe of totality were flooded with visitors worldwide to view the event.
While NSASP was not on that narrow path, it was still afforded a view of 80 to 85 percent total eclipse that provided peak viewing for the region at roughly 2:34 p.m. That peak lasted a mere two and half minutes but was an unusual sight.
Many on the field were anticipating the show to darken the area more than it did but still enjoyed the cosmic crossing, when the moon’s trajectory traversed the heavens between the sun and the earth, creating a shadow over a three-hour stretch of time.
Linda Wilkes, administrative assistant at NSASP, observed the eclipse with her granddaughter, 14-year-old Lexy. Wilkes recalled viewing the eclipse in March 1970 with her grandparents and family and hoped to recreate that with her granddaughter.
“I remember standing out in the yard with my grandparents and aunts and uncles in southern Maryland waiting and watching for the eclipse,” Wilkes shared.
“It almost doesn’t look real,” Lexy mused, staring skyward, as she and Wilkes braved the heat for two hours to see the zenith of the celestial event.
There were a number of children enjoying not only the eclips but the opportunity to romp outdoors and spend time during the workweek with parents and other family who had come to the region to view the event. Lt. Cmdr. Carl Poe from Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Command (NSMWDC) Detachment Dahlgren, his wife Rebecca and son Jaxson were on the field to view the eclipse along with his visiting parents, who wanted to be able to see the eclipse from a more advantageous location.
While this particular solar event was almost 100 years in the making, if you missed it, you won’t need to wait another century for the opportunity to view a total solar eclipse that will be visible from the continental U.S. In fact, the next total solar eclipse with be on April 8, 2024, a mere seven years away. NASA projects the path for that astro event will be visible in a diagonal path crossing from Texas to Maine and will have a peak of four and a half minutes — double the time of Monday’s grand event. Make sure you get your viewing glasses early!