Total Eclipse Plunges UNT Into Darkness

Total eclipse seen from the UNT event | Image by Andrew Norsworthy/The Dallas Express

Hundreds of North Texans gathered in Frisco to watch a truly once-in-a-lifetime event on Monday afternoon. 

The University of North Texas in Frisco (UNT) hosted its Eclipse Over Frisco viewing event on April 8, granting a one-of-a-kind view of a total solar eclipse. 

The total solar eclipse witnessed this week was the first in over a century to pass directly over the metroplex. In anticipation of the rare occasion, multiple cities and venues in the path of totality began preparing events and measures to account for an influx of thousands of potential viewers, as previously reported by The Dallas Express

The Dallas Express arrived at UNT’s event shortly after 10 a.m. Over the course of the morning, hundreds of attendees, including students and families, would arrive and begin setting up chairs, blankets, and coolers in anticipation of the eclipse.

Those in attendance were invited to participate in several special activities, such as chromosphere observations using a hydrogen alpha telescope, white light observations with Dobsonian telescopes, demonstrations of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and informative presentations. In addition to the school’s scientific observations, students from Penn State University also attended and launched a scientific balloon, gathering data with a live stream as the eclipse began. 

This event also included food from Chick-fil-A and DonutNV. Guests could munch on their snacks while listening to live jazz music from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNT (OLLI).

Cloudy skies began to give way to clearer conditions as the morning went on. By noon, everyone had turned their gazes to the sky to watch the eclipse unfold. 

Cheers and screams of joy could be heard as the eclipse reached totality at around 1:40 p.m., plunging the sky into darkness and even revealing some stars and planets. The totality lasted about four minutes, with the sun slowly creeping back into view until the eclipse ended at about 3 p.m.

Jordan Williams, communications strategist for OLLI, said that school officials had begun work months in advance to prepare for the eclipse. He described his own experience as “surreal.”

“It definitely felt like we were all kind of connected at that time because you knew everybody was looking up and everybody was having some kind of emotional reaction,” said Williams. 

Ryan Bennett, UNT’s astronomy program director, described the work done to prepare for the event and the eclipse itself as “amazing and completely rewarding.” 

“It was a lot of work, but it was so worth it just to actually get to see the ‘oohs’ and the ‘ahs’ and actually get to experience this all ourselves. It was phenomenal,” said Bennett. 

“I heard stories and that was my first totality event, and it was pretty much what was promised. You can’t really describe it, and it’s really kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Joe Watson, a graduate student in UNT Denton’s physics department, who had been demonstrating gravity before the eclipse.

“I think everyone needs to have it on their bucket list.” 

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