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Rice community members see solar eclipse on day off from classes

Guillian Paguila / Thresher

By Belinda Zhu     4/10/24 12:03am

Students, faculty members, and community members gathered to view the solar eclipse April 8. The total solar eclipse swept across North America and was visible in parts of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. While parts of Texas were in the path of totality, approximately 94% of the sun was blocked in Houston. It was the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States since 2017, and the next one won’t occur until 2044

Rice president Reggie DesRoches described the solar eclipse in an April 8 Instagram post

“The solar eclipse reminded me of what spurs our curiosity and drive to explore our world and the universe,” DesRoches wrote. “The awe and wonder of the solar system, of this rare celestial event, has been a powerful experience. I’m glad I got to share it with members of the Rice community.”

Rice Program Council hosted a solar eclipse viewing party in the central quad. Anya Yan originally wasn’t planning on viewing the eclipse due to hearing about the cloudiness, but upon seeing many students gathering outside, she decided to check it out.

“We were very lucky to see the sun a little bit when the clouds went through,” Yan, a Martel College sophomore, said. “I remember that my neck hurt so much from looking up at the sky the whole time. I have a sister in Boston and my parents are back in China, so I took a lot of videos when viewing the eclipse. I wanted to record the moment and share it with my friends and family members.”

With no classes on April 8, many students traveled to other parts of Texas to view the totality. 

Yufan Wang said that the day off allowed him to travel to Austin to view the eclipse. 

“After the moon blocked the sun’s light, the sky became completely dark, and the streetlights in the distance lit up,” Wang, a graduate student, said. “When the sky became bright again, it felt like a new day. I am very appreciative that Rice arranged a day off for the eclipse, so we had the opportunity to drive to Austin to witness this spectacle.”

Ethan Zhang, who got his pilot license when he graduated high school, flew to see the eclipse in DeQueen, Arkansas with his dad. 

“My dad’s an amateur photographer and he likes to go chase the eclipse[s],” Zhang, a Wiess College sophomore, said.  “We thought it’d be nice to go fly since we’ve never gone on this type of trip before. I chose that place because it had a nice airport, was out of the way of all the major cities, and it had a long time of totality. The eclipse itself was really amazing. Clouds parted as soon as totality occurred. I think the best part of it is that as soon as I kinda got used to the environment, the sun started appearing again. I’m sure it’ll never get old the next time I see it.”

Brian Jeong drove to Ding Dong, Texas after hearing that the weather in Houston wasn’t great for seeing the eclipse. 

“Ding Dong was like a farmland so we just pulled out a blanket, sat on the road and watched the eclipse,” Jeong, a Duncan College freshman, said. “It was interesting to see the surroundings fade off and become dark. The place we went was really detached from the city; it was filled with grass and people just had their cars parked around so I really liked the atmosphere.”

Abram Alvarado went to Copperas Cove, Texas and stumbled across a festival. 

“We were driving and saw [this festival] in the area so we stopped because we were right where we needed to be,” Alvarado, a Duncan College sophomore, said. “It was pretty cool and there were lots of locals there. We saw the total eclipse for the maximum amount of time, which was 4 minutes and 22 seconds, so it was great even though the clouds covered it for a minute.”

Sachin Shurpalekar went back home to Coppell, Texas to view the eclipse with his family.

“It was definitely worth the trip,” Shurpalekar, a McMurtry College sophomore, said.  “As the moon covered up the sun, it was as if the sky was just losing its color rather than getting dark. The total eclipse was really beautiful, and it was a great moment when everyone just went silent and appreciated nature.”

Duncan sophomore Josh Stallings went to Killeen, Texas to view the eclipse with friends. 

“We chose to go to Killeen because we wanted to get as close to the center path as possible,” Stallings said. “The original place we wanted to go to seemed cloudy so we went more north. It was cool. We showed up early and had fun. It was a ten out of ten experience.”

Kyle Sanderfer viewed the eclipse on a “little dirt road” right outside of Temple, Texas to avoid heavy traffic going into Austin. 

“We initially didn’t plan to travel but decided it would be worth it the night before, after realizing the next total eclipse in America wouldn’t be for 20 years,” Sanderfer, a Duncan sophomore said. “I thought the eclipse was awesome! One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and totally worth it, especially because of how dark and serene it was, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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