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Hundreds Gather at Heathwood to View Solar Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017

“Wallow in the wonder of nature and your opportunity to see this total solar eclipse.”

That was the advice of science educator Lee Zalinger, who was the guest speaker for Heathwood’s eclipse festivities, and it’s just what the approximately 400 visitors to campus on the afternoon of August 21 did.

Despite heavy cloud cover to the east, visibility for the eclipse was perfect from Stadium Field, where families gathered to talk, enjoy food served by the Highlander Club, and watch in awe (through eclipse glasses, of course) as the shadow of the moon covered up ever more of the sun, until the campus was in near darkness.

What we saw was as rare as it is amazing. Earth is, according to Zalinger, the only planet in our solar system that experiences total eclipses, and the last one that swept across the entire United States occurred more than 100 years ago.

Zalinger, who is chair of the science department at the Westminster School in Connecticut, spoke to an audience of some 200 Heathwood students, parents, faculty, and staff about the science and history of eclipses, noting that an early 20th-century eclipse helped prove Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, and that eclipses occur, in part, because while the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, the moon is 400 times closer to earth than the sun.

In his experience, Zalinger said, events like the eclipse pull communities together. That was certainly true at Heathwood, as hundreds of us, from preschoolers to grandparents, shared in the same sense of wonder and awe.