Historic eclipse draws campus-wide crowds

Posted on Aug 21 2017 - 7:00pm by Jordan Holman

From 11:53 a.m. to 2:52 p.m., the cosmos aligned almost perfectly over Oxford. Peaking at 1:24 p.m., the moon eclipsed about 91 percent of the sun in the 38655 area code – dimming daylight and causing a stir among university students. By lunchtime, a throng of students wanting to view the first solar eclipse in Mississippi in many of their lifetimes had surrounded the J.D. Williams Library.

In front of the library, staff set up a tent and provided glasses to view the eclipse.

Students were encouraged to share glasses and photographs of the eclipse under the hashtag #EclipseDay.

“We weren’t expecting this big a turnout,” library staff member Ashley Dees said. “We thought we’d only get people on their way to class. We’re happy, though, which is why we have the share-the-glasses policy.”

As glasses were passed around, so were watermelon slices and moon pies. On the other side of the library, people flocked to the two telescopes the department of physics and astronomy set up. Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter even stopped by.

“It’s nice to see the community out here enjoying things safely,” Vitter said after joking that he’d arranged the eclipse to cool things off and was looking into investing in some for future football games.

And a community it was. Between the herds of students gazing upwards despite the warnings the university and news issued, Oxford parents, children and even grandparents dotted the grounds. Many stood in line to look out of the university-provided telescopes, while others set up their own telescopes.

Freshman Jessica Crocker said the eclipse would help her remember her first day of college.

“It was a great opportunity to meet people and socialize,” she said.

Freshman Emma Baldwin said she even got out of class early to view the eclipse.

She found the event memorable and said it was a wonderful way to mark the first day of the class of 2021’s college career.

By about 3 p.m., however, the show had ended, as the moon had traveled out of the sun’s path. Observers dispersed, leaving their curiosity and some slightly trampled grass behind. Such a gathering will not occur again until Oct. 14, 2023.

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