Moon’s Shadow Shades Hoos During Eclipse

April 8, 2024 By Bryan McKenzie, bkm4s@virginia.edu Bryan McKenzie, bkm4s@virginia.edu

Sometimes “most” is close enough.

Hundreds of University of Virginia students joined President Jim Ryan, the Astronomy Club and the UVA Student Council on the Lawn Monday to view the solar eclipse. The crowd stretched from the base of the Rotunda to past the Homer statue, rivaling the turnout for Final Exercises.

While Virginia was outside the path of the total eclipse, UVA sky gazers caught a sliver of totality as the moon’s shadow blocked about 85% of the sun, according to the UVA Department of Astronomy’s website.

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A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and all three bodies are in a perfectly straight line, the astronomers said. UVA experienced the eclipse from 2 to 4:30 p.m., with maximum sun coverage happening around 3:17 p.m.

About 3 p.m., a clear view of the entire eclipse seemed promising. Then “boos” began to swell from the Lawn crowd as a large bank of clouds began obscuring the view.

 

 

“Earth is special, in that our moon and our star (the sun) are about the same apparent size in the sky,” the astronomy department’s website states. “This means that when the orbits line up just right, our moon can perfectly block the face of the sun, creating darkness during the day and revealing the spectacular crown-like outer atmosphere of the sun known as the corona.”

In the past few weeks, the approaching phenomenon has been met with internet conspiracy theories involving everything from human sacrifices to NASA firing rockets at the moon for somewhat vague reasons. However, humans aren’t alone in having odd reactions to the sun going dark during daylight.

Students point at Eclipse with Jim Ryan
Wearing special solar eclipse glasses, UVA President Jim Ryan joined students to watch the astronomical phenomenon. (Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

During a 2017 total eclipse in Columbia, South Carolina, behavioral scientists flocked to the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens for a National Institutes of Health study of how animals react to an eclipse.

Scientists watched 17 different species, including birds, mammals and reptiles, both before and during the eclipse. When the sun was eclipsed by the moon, about 75% of the animals exhibited either established nighttime behaviors or increased anxiety.

On Monday, as the eclipse on Grounds grew and the moon shadow darkened the sun, Biscuit, a year-old golden retriever, grabbed his own tail in his mouth and began maniacally spinning in a circle.

Don’t blame the moon, his owners said.

“Oh, this is normal behavior,” his owners laughed. “It’s totally normal.”

Guy gazes at solar eclipse with glasses
(Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
Two students share a pair of glasses and look through a side each at the same time
(Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)
Student in tree viewing the Eclipse
(Photo by Erin Edgerton, University Communications)
A group looks at Eclipse in front of Rotunda
(Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)
Clouds share a view of the eclipse at peak
(Photo by Clara Castle, University Communications)
Jim Ryan and other use glasses to view the Eclipse
(Photo by Julia Weaver, University Communications)
Drone aerial of the lawn full of community viewing the eclipse
(Photo by Mitch Powers, University Communications)
Two students lay on a picnic blanket to view the eclipse
(Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)
the view of the sun as it began to eclipse through a pair of glasses
(Photo by Matt Riley, University Communications)

Media Contact

Bryan McKenzie

Assistant Editor, UVA Today Office of University Communications