Solar eclipse attracts crowds to local parks, libraries

As eclipse watchers across the country traveled to remote destinations, thousands of people in San Diego gathered in City parks and libraries to experience the solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21. Libraries had a limited supply of solar viewing glasses to distribute, prompting crowds to gather outside before the doors opened at 9:30 a.m.

At Mission Trails Regional Park visitors arrived with every type of viewing device, from cereal boxes to telescopes.

Twenty-six libraries hosted Sky Parties with educational programming and a live stream of NASA’s coverage of the eclipse from various points across the country. Cub Scout Troop 1209 gathered on the lawn outside Mira Mesa Library to share viewing devices made from foil and cardboard. A spirit of camaraderie was also felt at North University Community Library, where patrons willingly shared viewing glasses with strangers so everyone could catch a glimpse of the rare astral event. Library staff wanted to make it memorable for visitors.

“This morning we had a lot of people here viewing the eclipse,” said Michelle Ruiz, branch manager at the North University Community Library. “We have a fun solar system scavenger hunt going on inside and an activity sheet to write everything you heard, saw and did at the library.”

Thousands of people also gathered for a free eclipse celebration at the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park where two astronomers were available to answer questions. Although San Diego could only see a partial eclipse — the moon was expected to cover approximately 57 percent of the sun — excitement was at a maximum level.

Experts say the next solar eclipse to be visible in San Diego won’t happen until 2023. Cee Cartwright, resident of University City, got in line early to get viewing glasses and make sure her grandkids got to enjoy the phenomenon.

“We need to talk about it, it’s history, they won’t see another one until they’re fully grown,” said Cartwright. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Solar viewing glasses were donated to City libraries by STAR_Net, a production of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning in collaboration with the American Library Association, the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and the Afterschool Alliance.