Francis Marion hosts eclipse viewing party

Francis Marion hosts eclipse viewing party
Florence County was at 99.3 percent totality during Monday's solar eclipse. (Source: WMBF News)
Florence County was at 99.3 percent totality during Monday's solar eclipse. (Source: WMBF News)

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Francis Marion University hosted a solar eclipse viewing event and opened its gates at the main athletic complex around 12 p.m. Monday ahead of the big event.

Florence County saw 99.3 percent of the solar eclipse around 2:45 p.m., and the viewing event gave families a chance to learn what to expect beforehand.

Ginger Bryngelson, assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department, helped put on the event. The planetarium and astronomy faculty led the different educational stations.

"It's rare, and only certain parts on the earth can see an eclipse. My colleagues and I have been talking about for two years now, so to have this come to fruition is really exciting," Bryngelson said.

People could visit different solar activity stations with multiple telescopes to look at sun spots, or any solar flares and educational kid-friendly activities where kids could decorate their solar glasses with a mask to stay on safely.

There were also UV beaded bracelets to pass out so people could watch the colors change as it became darker outside.

"My daughter has been very excited and believe it or not, as a 5-year-old, she is very into science, she loves the planets. She knows all about it, so to get her interested in it was very easy. This is right up her alley," said Megan Bolt.

Bolt came with her husband and 5-year-old daughter, Delaney, who all enjoyed the entire FMU event.

"Oh yeah, we had a blast," Bolt said. "She got one of the bracelets that changes color in the sun. We got to look in the special telescope where you could see the shadow, so she's really enjoyed it today."

When FMU opened its doors, there were more than 5,000 solar eclipse glasses on hand for people to safely watch the eclipse. As the darkness and change in temperature took over, people who viewed it said it was an experience that no matter what the age, it was one to remember.

"The funniest thing was how surprised everyone was with how dark it got," Bolt said. "I mean, we had been told, but we just didn't expect it and the temperature drop, it was amazing."

Many families agreed it was a gradual phenomena and Angela White is thankful she came to Florence County from Marion to watch the eclipse.

"I was 4 years old when the last one had happened, which was 1979, and these are my two daughters - one is in ninth and one is in 11th grade - and we were talking about how this is an experience to talk about in science class once school starts back," White said.

It was a feeling for everyone to walk away with and remember. Luke Sarmiento said he and his family will definitely not forget the experience.

"It's really funny to be able to tell my children that I've seen a  solar eclipse before going to college and all that, so yeah its been really wonderful," he said.

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