‘Awesome’: Partial solar eclipse shines for Portland watchers

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PORTLAND — For Sylvie Zackrone, the difference Monday was almost night and day.

“I think it is really, stupidly different,” she said Aug. 21 about viewing a partial solar eclipse through tinted glasses after watching through a foil-lined cardboard box.

Zackrone was one of hundreds who gathered in Monument Square for a viewing event organized by the Portland Public Library. The library also supplied the in-demand glasses that were frequently shared by those gathered under sunny skies to watch a celestial event that hadn’t been seen in the U.S. since 1979.

The glasses were hardly the only method to watch the moon obscure almost 60 percent of the sun for several minutes. Potato chip cans, cereal boxes, picnic plates and a vented pizza pan all helped viewers trace the event.

The skies did not drastically darken at 2:45 p.m. when the partial eclipse reached its climax, but the enthusiasm didnt’ wane, either, as rushed into the square to watch.

Ric and Laurie Phillips of Naples, Florida, had not even checked into their hotel room yet and waited several minutes in line to view the eclipse through a telescope.

“I felt it was more unobstructed,” Ric said when comparing it to a look through the tinted glasses. They summarized the event with one word: “Awesome.”

Samantha Scarf, who works for the Portland Symphony Orchestra, used two paper plates before donning glasses. While the glasses were superior, she said she enjoyed seeing the progression through the pinhole she poked in one plate.

“At first, I didn’t think it was working, then someone said, ‘There it is,'” she said.

Reid Brawer, an incoming freshman at Bowdoin College from Berkeley, California, helped give the crowd a unique view: Ted Rand projected the partial eclipse on Brawer’s back with a flat pan poked with dozens of holes.

Rand, the husband of Portland Public Library Executive Director Sarah Campbell, said he found the pan in the library kitchen, then offered views on the surface of Monument Square or on anyone who would stand still.

Brawer’s mother, Wendy Horng Brawer, said the pair dashed out of lunch looking for a place to view the eclipse.

“We walked out and turned the corner,” she said. “Look at all these people.”

City residents Frank and Susannah Sanfilippo met at Monument Square to watch the partial eclipse, wanting to experience it in a larger group.

“It is nice to be here with people, experiencing awe,” Susannah said. “It is nice that for a couple of minutes, we are part of a bigger reality.”

If what you saw Monday only served to whet your appetite, or if you missed it, don’t fret: western Maine will be in the path of a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Reid Brawer, from Berkeley, California, provides the platform for Ted Rand’s lens in Monument Square in Portland during the Aug. 28 partial solar eclipse.

The Aug. 21 partial solar eclipse is tracked in Monument Square in Portland by Ted Rand, using a pan poked with dozens of holes.

Daylight was not greatly dimmed at the climax of the Aug. 21 partial eclipse, but neither was the enthusiasm of viewers gathered in Portland’s Monument Square.

Susannah and Frank Sanfilippo viewing the Aug. 21 eclipse with others in Portland’s Monument Square. “I wanted to be with people experiencing the awe,” she said.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.