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Eclipse day: Here's how Philly saw the big event

Tom Avril, Barbara Boyer, Nick Vadala, Staff Writer

Updated: Monday, August 21, 2017, 5:54 PM

The solar eclipse can be seen beside the statue of William Penn on top of Philadelphia City Hall on Monday,

At the Franklin Institute, science educators shot a garbage can full of plastic moons into the sky. A few blocks away, patrons at SkyGarten, a 51st-floor beer garden, sampled Moon Pies and a drink called Cold Side of the Moon.

At City Hall on Monday viewers look up to see the partial eclipse as it comes close to the 75% coverage. Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer
The total eclipse of the sun photographed at Boysen State Park near Shoshini, Wyoming on Aug. 21, 2017. Charles Fox / Staff Photographer
Joanne Jondreau of Cherry Hill uses a special viewing filter to watch the eclipse's beginning on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
Luis Osorio (far left), 19 and Leysha Walker (second for left), 17 of South Philadelphia watch and photograph from under a tent with a special viewing filter to watch the eclipse with hundreds of others along the Ben Franklin Parkway, outside the Franklin Institute on Monday. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
The statue of William Penn is silhouetted by the partial solar eclipse at 2:46 pm on Monday. Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer
Franklin Institute volunteer Steve Bulova of University City lines up a telescope (with image safely projected onto rubberized cloth) for others to view the eclipse, along with hundreds of others on the Ben Franklin Parkway on Monday. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
Married for 53 years and seeing their very first eclipse, Sue and Reinhard Kruse join hundreds of others along the Ben Franklin Parkway, outside the Franklin Institute. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
A passenger in a car uses a pinhole viewer as they drive on the Ben Franklin Parkway, while hundreds watch the eclipse outside the Franklin Institute on Monday. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
Sophia Repkoe, 8, of Glassboro, and Justin Rosenfeld, 14, of West Deptford, wear welding helmets as they watch the solar eclipse Monday at The Cove beach in Cape May. Chris Bakley, one of Cape May's resident astrophotographers set up a mini viewing station on the promenade so people could watch the eclipse. He also handed out 300 pairs of solar eclipse glasses. William Thomas Cain
Anthony and Connie Bucci of Westampton, N.J., watch the solar eclipse Monday at The Cove beach in Cape May. Chris Bakley, one of Cape May's resident astrophotographers set up a mini viewing station on the promenade so people could watch the eclipse. He also handed out 300 pairs of solar eclipse glasses. William Thomas Cain
Franklin Institute staff science interpreters demonstrate the thermal properties of the sun, reflecting rays in a parabolic mirror, focusing them to cause paper to burst into flames, as spectators watch the eclipse along Ben Franklin Parkway on Monday. Joseph Fox (left) and Isobel Arthen (right) were showing why you should not look at the sun. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
A family checks the progress of the solar eclipse from the beach in Margate on Monday. Tom Briglia
Penny Chapman, Synceer Lacourt, and Oneka Hurst (left to right) watch the solar eclipse together Monday afternoon at Belmont Plateau. Joy Lee / Staff Photographer
Dwayne McField of East Falls uses a special filter to watch the eclipse with hundreds of others along the Ben Franklin Parkway, outside the Franklin Institute. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
Andy Hazeltine of Birdsboro, Pa.,uses a special filter to watch the eclipse along with hundreds of others along the Ben Franklin Parkway, outside the Franklin Institute on Monday. Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer
Cathy Moffatt of Marlton, views the solar eclipse Monday at The Cove beach in Cape May. Chris Bakley, one of Cape May's resident astrophotographers set up a mini viewing station on the promenade so people could watch the eclipse. He also handed out 300 pairs of solar eclipse glasses. William Thomas Cain
Wanda Chavarria looks through a homemade eclipse viewing box near City Hall as the partial solar eclipse placed the sun near the City Hall tower on Monday. Michael Bryant / Staff Photographer
A view of the solar eclipse at Belmont Plateau through the special eclipse glasses Monday afternoon at exactly 2:44p.m., maximum coverage. Joy Lee / Staff Photographer
Nicole Mclane watches the beginning of the eclipse through her special solar eclipse glasses early Monday afternoon at Belmont Plateau. Joy Lee / Staff Photographer
Photo Gallery: From Philly to the Shore, how we saw the eclipse

But for thousands who gawked from the sidewalks of Philadelphia Monday, no frills were needed. The unadorned spectacle of a solar eclipse was enough.

Yes, the moon blocked only 75 percent of our view of the sun. And yes, even that partial phenomenon was obscured by clouds for much of the afternoon in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

It was plenty for Hameda Tartour, 29, who shared a pair of eclipse-viewing glasses with co-workers during a break from work near City Hall.

“The pictures don’t do it justice,” Tartour said shortly before 2 p.m. “This is a great time to see the moon slowly creeping over the sun.”

The sky was noticeably dimmer than usual at 2:30 p.m., said Malvern resident Randell Jesup, 54, watching outside the Franklin Institute in a Planetary Society T-shirt.

“It feels like late afternoon,” he said. “The light feels odd.”

The peak of the event occurred moments later, at 2:44 p.m. But people gathered outside the science museum hours before then, preparing to get in touch with their inner astronomer. Universities, libraries, and museums across the region joined in the fun with eclipse parties. At Manor College, students who attended an eclipse event could get $50 off their $100 deposit for the fall semester.

Inside the Franklin Institute, visitors watched a live projection of the total solar eclipse as it raced across the country from Oregon to South Carolina. Among them was Benjamin Franklin impersonator Ward Larkin, who gamely posed for photos with visitors.

“I think it’s fun for the city,” he said. “No work is getting done.”

The museum had a variety of devices available for safe viewing outside.

Joy Bergey, 62, of Flourtown, peered at the partly obscured sun through a handheld filter, and she also looked at a projection of the spectacle on a piece of white paper, using a device called the SunSpotter.

“There’s a little bite out of the right side of the sun!” she said.

Others huddled outside under 8-foot-wide sheets of protective film the science museum had erected on metal poles to provide a safe group viewing experience. A whoop went up just before 2 p.m. when the clouds receded, revealing the sun with an ever-larger bite out of one side.

As the spectacle progressed, more and more people came pouring out of office buildings to gaze at the sky, some quickly looking away when they remembered they didn’t have eye protection.

Fearful they might have suffered eye injury, a handful of sky-gazers visited Wills Eye Hospital after viewing the eclipse. But as of 6 p.m., none had suffered any damage, spokeswoman Cathy Moss said.

Outside the Hard Rock Café in Center City, Rebecca Pizzi and her 10-year-old daughter, Amanda, of Collegeville, had conflicting opinions about how to spend their time during the eclipse.

Amanda said she wanted to watch, calling it a “once in a lifetime” event.

But her mother said no, as they did not have protective glasses. The pair had come to the city for a doctor’s appointment.

“We are not thinking about the eclipse, and I am trying to get my kids to not think about it,” Pizzi said.

At SkyGarten, at 1717 Arch St., a few dozen people gathered to watch, some expressing irritation over the intermittent clouds.

Guests were given what the bar called “NASA-approved” glasses, but organizers said they were out of the shades by about 1 p.m. Eye protection or not, patrons were required to sign a waiver with instructions not to look directly at the eclipse.

Out on the streets, sun-gazers shared equipment.

Kennesha Africa, 25, of West Philadelphia, was disappointed when she tried watching the eclipse on her phone at Rittenhouse Square. Then someone lent her a pair of protective glasses.

“Wow, you really can see it. It’s amazing,” she said. “I was sun gazing until I saw the moon.”

Others looked through their phones, snapping photos with a protective filter pressed against the camera lens. Some used contraptions made from cardboard boxes to see the image safely.

And who said humans get to have all the fun? Katie Armstrong, 29, and Stephanie Wiggins, 32, of Center City, shared a pair of glasses with a dachshund as they sat on a blanket.

Then it was over. The next partial eclipse hits Philadelphia in 2021.

But if it’s a total blockage of the sun you are after, the city is out of luck until 2079.

Tom Avril, Barbara Boyer, Nick Vadala, Staff Writer

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