A celestial occasion: Franklin County residents admire solar eclipse

Hazel Singh, 11, of Northfield, has images of the eclipse projected on her face from a kitchen colander held between her face and the sun at an eclipse-viewing event held at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday.

Hazel Singh, 11, of Northfield, has images of the eclipse projected on her face from a kitchen colander held between her face and the sun at an eclipse-viewing event held at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The eclipse as seen near peak from Northfield.

The eclipse as seen near peak from Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Magen MacDougall, her daughter Emma Goulding, Hazel Singh and her mother Joanna Singh, all of Northfield, gaze at the solar eclipse at a viewing event held at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday.

Magen MacDougall, her daughter Emma Goulding, Hazel Singh and her mother Joanna Singh, all of Northfield, gaze at the solar eclipse at a viewing event held at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Melissa Osborne of Northfield gets comfortable in her oversized chair while watching the eclipse at a viewing event at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday.

Melissa Osborne of Northfield gets comfortable in her oversized chair while watching the eclipse at a viewing event at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Friends Greta Lewis, Maddie Keefe and Mystic Glenn, all 14 of Northfield, gaze at the sun during an eclipse-viewing event at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday.

Friends Greta Lewis, Maddie Keefe and Mystic Glenn, all 14 of Northfield, gaze at the sun during an eclipse-viewing event at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

A group photo at the eclipse-viewing event held at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday.

A group photo at the eclipse-viewing event held at Pioneer Valley Regional School on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE andANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writers

Published: 04-08-2024 5:53 PM

Modified: 04-08-2024 7:07 PM


Franklin County residents watched in awe as the moon and sun reversed roles and our star took on the shape of a crescent during the so-called “Great North American Eclipse” Monday afternoon.

For about two hours beginning at around 2 p.m., the moon moved over the sun, blocking out 95% of its light over the Pioneer Valley. The celestial event marks the last of its kind in the U.S. until Aug. 23, 2044, when an eclipse will cross through parts of Canada, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Western Massachusetts residents will not experience a similar celestial event without traveling until May 1, 2079, when a total solar eclipse will cast night-like darkness over Pioneer Valley.

Pioneer Valley Regional School

At Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield, hundreds of students, staff, families and community members gathered to take in the rare experience. Alongside viewing the eclipse, the school also set up numerous activities to commemorate the experience with a photo booth, chalk art, the Solar Eclipse Snack Shack run by the senior class and a time capsule set to be opened in 2079.

In the minutes leading up to the moon nearing totality, Emma Goulding, 11, said she was thrilled to watch the rare phenomenon. The sixth grader was wearing a NASA shirt and said she dreams of becoming an astronomer.

“I already had my glasses; they’ve been sitting in my room forever, just waiting,” Goulding said. “It’s really exciting.”

Sitting next to her was Northfield resident Magen MacDougall, who also added she was excited to observe the eclipse. She said Pioneer did a wonderful job setting up a free community event for so many people to enjoy.

“This is a nice little community event,” MacDougall said. “It’s great to be able to experience this.”

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As the moon overtook the sun and the strange daylight began to set in, Superintendent Patricia Kinsella looked around and marveled at the great turnout.

“People took this as an opportunity,” she said. “This is what we can do [as a district and community.]”

As folks left the ballfield, several Pioneer students were collecting eclipse glasses in anticipation of donating them to schoolchildren in Latin America ahead of future eclipses.

Greenfield Public Library

Dozens of people, ranging in age from toddlers to seniors, gathered outside the Greenfield Public Library on Monday afternoon sporting solar viewing glasses. As the first portion of the moon blocked the sun, the crowd simultaneously looked up excitedly, pointing and announcing to their companions, “I see it!”

The library partnered with solar energy company PV Squared to host the eclipse-viewing event. The company purchased and distributed some 250 pairs of solar viewing glasses to the general public and answered residents’ questions about the eclipse.

“It’s a great way to bring something of international interest to our city with the help of a local business. ... It’s been a great coming together of the community to see something that many of us will not be able to see again,” Library Director Anna Bognolo said.

As libraries across the country began providing solar glasses to their patrons, Bognolo said the Greenfield Public Library’s phone was “ringing off the wall” with patrons inquiring about the product.

“Our community takes good care of us, so we figured, ‘Let’s take care of them at a time where they can be accidentally hurting their own eyes,’” said PV Squared Director of Marketing and Outreach Brittany Hathaway. “The next time something like this will happen again in the United States will be in at least 20 years, so this is the best time to come out and celebrate safely as a community.”

Although most of the sun peepers relied on their solar glasses to safely watch the sun and moon glide past one another, others held solar eclipse viewers that they made from paper plates at the library on Friday. PV Squared Design and Teams Manager Jon Child angled a pair of binoculars up to project the sun’s waning shadow on a piece of cardboard for viewers who did not have eye protection.

“It’s a safe way to look at the sun without glasses,” he remarked. “[The eclipse is] fun and it’s kind of related, in the solar sense, to what we do. … It’s just not something you see every day.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081. Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.