Solar-eclipse-worshiping, at the Morris Museum

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We earthlings are very lucky to have our sun.

Even at 30 percent power, it’s plenty bright and warm, as legions of star-gazers discovered in Morris Township on Monday afternoon.

The Morris Museum counted 2,000 visitors who came to view the partial solar eclipse, through filtered telescopes and free safety glasses provided by the Morris Museum Astronomical Society.

“It looked like the moon was on fire!” said 10-year-old Jake Fehnel of Mendham. Asked if he now might consider an astronomy career, the rising 5th grader replied: “Just from looking at this, I probably will. It’s so cool.”

Partial solar eclipse over NJ, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove.
Partial solar eclipse over NJ, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove.

While Karen Lontka of the astronomical society attempted to focus a pinpoint projection of the eclipse through tiny holes poked in a cereal box, others queued up for a glimpse through filtered telescopes and binoculars that magnified the celestial scene between 10- and 200 times, bringing sunspots into view.

“It was worth the wait… It looks fake, it’s so perfect,” said actress Emily Williams of Wharton.

Solar eclipse 2017. Photo by Tyler Urrutia.
Solar eclipse 2017, Canon Powershot with DIY mylar solar filter. Photo by Tyler Urrutia.

Tyler Urrutia, 17, and his pals from Morris Plains photographed the moon passing before the sun through filters they rigged for their cameras.

“We’re all photography nerds,” he said. “It’s just a cool event to see. It’s historical.”

Sharon Battaglino, a Mendham realtor, had to think twice before peering skyward, even with the ISO-approved safety glasses. About 350 pairs were distributed for sharing.

“It’s strange because we never look at the sun. On a normal day you can’t look at the sun. It’s hard. But it’s good with the glasses,” she said.

A fail-safe option was inside. NASA’s coverage was live-streamed on a giant screen in the museum’s Bickford Theatre.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

LOOK, UP IN THE SKY, IT'S... a partial solar eclipse, according to the Fanning family, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Partial solar eclipse over NJ, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Jeff Sovelove.
Jake Fehnel, 10, enjoys the view, and so does his mom, Tricia, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Tyler Urrutia, 17, of Morris Plains, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
SAFETY FIRST, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Actress Emily Williams of Wharton takes her turn with the binoculars, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Special filters made these telescopes safe, at the Morris Museum so
Zena Hardy and children Maya, 9, and Jalen, 12, came from South Orange to enjoy the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
A big crowd gathered for the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Sun-gazes on lawn at Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
LAWN SEATING at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Geysy Reyes, 10, with her dad, Jose, and sisters Adriana, 4, and Marela, 8, at Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Many viewing contraptions were on display at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jackson, 8, and Christian, 5, get a hand from their mom, Sharon Vitolo, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Rosemary Lontka of the Morris Museum Astronomical Society tries pinhole viewing method, at Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
LOOK HARD! A pinhole projection of the partial eclipse is there somewhere, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
THE SUN BLINKED! Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Jason Marum, 15, of Morristown has a gander during Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
HOLD STILL! Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Luke and Aimee Dcaccia, of Birmingham, England, said this eclipse topped their last one back home. They joined relatives at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Noah Ossanna, 18, of Morris Plains, tests his DIY pinhole telescope, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
SELFIE TIME at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Isabella Fiacco of Boonton takes a peek during the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Poster from 1917 solar eclipse, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Poster of 2017 eclipse, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Victoria Fanning (striped dress) and relatives from near and far oogle the sun, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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P1600580 - LOOK, UP IN THE SKY, IT'S... a partial solar eclipse, according to the Fanning family, at the Morris Museum solar eclipse party, Aug. 21, 2017. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Shannon Vitolo of Morristown brought sons Jackson, 8, and Christian, 5, to the museum after paying a Fairfield photo shop $25 for a pair of safety glasses that resemble cardboard 3D movie goggles.

The eclipse “looked like a really skinny half-moon,” Jackson said. 

“Totality”–the eclipse maximum–occurred at about 2:44 pm, with clear skies. Billowing clouds danced in shortly thereafter.

Nobody seemed to mind that nothing dramatic happened. Birds did not go crazy. Bats did not go batty. No one needed any flashlights to navigate what looked pretty much like any sunny day with passing clouds. The atmosphere was festive.

“It’s amazing, just to get an opportunity to see this,” said Jason Marum, a rising sophomore at Morristown High School. 

Attorney Zena Hardy brought her kids, Jalen, 12, and Maya, 9, from South Orange to participate in what felt to the mom like an outdoor science class. 

“You don’t get to see it that often. It doesn’t really happen in the U.S. It happens over water,” Maya said of solar eclipses.

The next one visible here is not until 2024. Victoria Fanning will be ready.

A winner at the 2017 Morristown’s Got Talent contest, the Morristown High School singer and actress on Monday led a chorus of relatives from Arizona, California and England in an impromptu musical tribute to our fiery orb.

Total Eclipse of the Heart needed a little work. But, as you can see in the video clip, Here Comes the Sun is right in the Fanning family’s wheelhouse.

The Morris Museum Astronomical Society meets on the first Thursday of every month at 7 pm, and all are welcome, said member Ron Schmahl.

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