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Solar eclipse reactions around Mid-Missouri

Solar eclipse reactions around Mid-Missouri

August 22nd, 2017 by Staff Reports in Local News

Helen Wilbers/FULTON SUN Students at Fulton High School look to the skies on Monday, a few minutes before totality. The school distributed eclipse glasses to all students and visitors from Arkansas State University brought telescopes.

In the blink of an eye, the great solar eclipse of 2017 came and left.

"I thought it was really cool," said Sam Hassler, 13, in Fulton for the event with his parents, Annie and Ken, and grandmother Diane. They live in Muscatine, Iowa, and drove 226 miles for the event.

"We home-school Sam, so we thought it would be a good opportunity," Annie Hassler added.

Just as the eclipse began, Tim Riley stood outside the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, gazing at the bell tower which moments before had erupted with chimes.

As director and chief curator of the National Churchill Museum, of which the church is a integral part, the historic stone structure holds a special place in his heart.

"If you really think about how many eclipses this church has seen, and think about how Christopher Wren designed the tools — calculations and measurements He built the tables that tell us when eclipses occur," Riley said.

A group of scientists and students from the University of Arkansas, University of Central Arkansas and Harding University joined Fulton High School students an hour before totality to launch a weather balloon that would measure atmospheric conditions during the eclipse.

Coordinated by NASA and Montana State University, the nationwide ballooning project aimed to capture data along the eclipse's path. ASU's BalloonSAT team visited Fulton in June for a practice run and returned Monday for the big event. The "payload" included temperature and air pressure sensors, a ball of GoPro cameras to capture a 360-degree video and a live-streaming video camera.

Student council members at Fulton High School got to help launch the balloon.

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"It's something I may never get to see again," said FHS senior Mason Gaines. "I grew up watching the stars, so this is cool for me."

Gaines said he learned a lot from the experience.

"I didn't actually know at all how a weather balloon works," he said. "It goes up slower than it comes down. Once it reaches the upper atmosphere, it pops, and it has an eclipse to slow its descent."

The Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated about 30,000 people visited Jefferson City for Monday's solar eclipse, but much of Mid-Missouri also was in the path of totality.

The less congested atmosphere of Russellville's Total Eclipse of the Park provided amateur photographer Dick Woo with the perfect setting.

The Wichita, Kansas, engineer had been planning for more than a year to try his photography skills with Monday's total solar eclipse.

"I knew there'd be lots of crowds and really didn't want to deal with it," Woo said of the Jefferson City events. So he grabbed a Mid-Missouri map and randomly chose Russellville.

He was pleased when he drove into town Monday morning and saw "event parking" signs along the highway.

"This is exactly what I was looking for," he said.

Other out-of-town visitors, like Janna Martin, chose Russellville deliberately.

The mother of two from Russellville, Arkansas, said she and her best friend, and mother of three, decided two months ago they wanted to view the total solar eclipse.

When they discovered their Missouri namesake was in the direct path, their travel plans were set, including camping overnight at Bennett Spring State Park.

Some visitors to the Moniteau County Fairgrounds in California came from around the country from as far north as Wisconsin to as far south as Texas.

The Pato family drove more than 13 hours from Aideo, Texas, to see the eclipse. The family said they decided to come to California because they were told about how friendly the community was while they had taken a stop at a gas station.

Then there was Mike and Jane Schoenebeck from Green Bay, Wisconsin, with their friends Carole Valentine and Rich Ovans, who had recently moved to the Ozarks. Even though they had seen a solar eclipse before, they drove more than 600 miles to see their first total eclipse.

Cars, trucks and motor homes parked bumper to bumper at California's Proctor Park, where hundreds came to view the eclipse while avoiding heavy traffic.