Partial eclipse gets the full attention of N.H. spectators

  • Crowds viewing the eclipse at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center on Aug. 21, 2017. Almost 1,300 people paid to go inside the museum, the most since its 2009 opening weekend, and hundreds more gathered outside. David Brooks—Monitor staff

  • Cheryl Nickerson (right) and Cara Haley used the sloped area of the outfield at White Park in Concord to look up at the eclipse on Monday August 21, 2017 GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Tess Kuenning of Bow tries taking a photo with eclipse glasses held over her phone. David Brooks / Monitor staff

  • Stathis Kouninis of Hampton looks through one of several solar-viewing telescopes set up during Monday’s eclipse at the Discovery Center, Aug. 21, 2017. This one had a hydrogen-alpha filter, which show the sun via just a sliver of the visible spectrum.  David Brooks—Monitor staff

  • Laura Nickerson of UNH demonstrates how a kitchen colander can be used to see many images of the eclipse. David Brooks / Monitor staff

  • Members of the Cunningham, Webb, Pelletier and Kittredge families from Concord, Henniker and Loudon came to White Park on Monday to look at the eclipse. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Members of the Cunningham, Webb, Pelletier and Kittredge families from local towns came to White Park on Monday to watch the eclipse.

  • At White Park in Concord, Hanul Hyun, 5, uses eclipse glasses, which he shared with his brother because the ones that were handed out by Concord Parks and Recreation were gone quickly. Some 200 people showed up to watch. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Alvin See of the N.H. Astronomical Society demonstrates the Sunspotter, showing the moon covering almost two-thirds of the sun during the eclipse at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord.  David Brooks / Monitor staff

Published: 8/22/2017 12:24:26 AM

People searching for ways to unify America got insight Monday into a new method: Wait for a rare astronomical event and watch the sharing expand.

“We’ve been passing out eclipse glasses, asking everyone to share – and they have!” said Jeanne Gerulskis, executive director of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, where more than 1,300 people showed up for events surrounding Monday’s total eclipse – including 1,266 people who paid to come inside, the most since opening weekend in 2009.

Glasses were also freely shared at White Park in Concord, where some 200 people showed up to an eclipse-watching event hosted by the city Parks and Recreation Department.

Even though New Hampshire was nearly 800 miles away from the path of the total eclipse, interest was still high. Concord Parks and Recreation offered free eclipse-viewing glasses at White Park, and lines began forming by 1 p.m., more than an hour and a half before the eclipse would be at its peak.

“Thanks to Parks and Rec, because I’d been looking all over town for glasses,” said Cheryl Nickerson of Concord, who came to the park with her friend, Cara Haley.

They covered the eclipse glasses with their sunglasses for a little extra eye protection – and to keep the cardboard goggles in place.

Elsewhere in the park, Michael Cunningham, 12, was excited. “It’s pretty awesome – considering this is my first eclipse!” he said.

At the Discovery Center, Beth Dermody of Hopkinton demonstrated an eclipse viewer the family had made out of a used Cheerios box – as she called it, their “recycle viewer.”

“We didn’t have any glasses, so I thought it would be great to make a box pinhole viewer,” said Dermody, accompanied by husband, Steve, and their children Matthew, 11, and Ryan, 8.

In a pinhole viewer, light passes through a small hole, casting an image of the light source on a nearby surface – creating a safe way to watch the moon slowly eat half the sun. Cutting up a cereal box so the image fell inside the box made it easier to see.

“It’s like a pinhole viewer, except that it’s better, because it’s dark inside,” Matthew said.

The center had plenty of pinhole viewers around, as well as lots of eclipse glasses.

The New Hampshire Science Teachers Association made pinhole viewers from two sheets of paper for the public at the Discovery Center, while Laura Nickerson, director of the University of New Hampshire’s STEM Teachers Collaborative, demonstrated how you could create multiple eclipse images using the holes in a kitchen colander or the spaces between leaves on a tree or the spaces between the linked fingers of your two hands.

One question for New Hampshire was how much the partial eclipse – the moon covered roughly 64 percent of the sun at peak – would affect our daylight.

Not much, as it turned out.

“Not really,” commented Mike Olivero of Concord, when asked at peak if anything seemed different. “Maybe it feels cooler, not as hot. But maybe it’s just me.”

Rick Watrous of Concord, standing behind Olivero in line to look through special sun-watching telescopes provided by the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, was a little more optimistic.

“It feels like it’s closer to twilight than it was,” he offered.

Daylight and temperature differences were much more noticeable within totality itself – satellite images showed that the decline in temperature caused by the passage of the moon’s shadow temporarily dissipated cloud formation in parts of the U.S.

The New Hampshire Astronomical Society showed up in force at the Discovery Center, with volunteers operating at least four different types of telescopes. Each was equipped to look at the sun without damaging the viewer’s eyes – or any other part of their body.

“You will be pleased to know I see no smoking coming from the back of your head,” joked Marc Stowbridge, president of the society, as people peered through the viewfinder.

“The crowds have been non-stop,” he added. “Very enthusiastic.”

And unified – for at least a day.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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