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York County looks to the sky for rare solar eclipse

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

The daily grind of earthly life paused for a while Monday afternoon as people across York County stopped to get a glimpse of a solar eclipse high in the sky. 

The eclipse that has captured the nation’s imagination for a few weeks did not bring darkness to York County, but that did not stop many from stepping out of their homes and offices for at least a portion of the three-hour stargazing event.

Tiffany Moppin of New cumberland takes a look at the eclipse using Jeri Jones' telescope at St. Johns Blymire United Church of Christ in York Township Monday, Aug. 20, 2017. Former county parks employee and astronomer Jeri Jones, background, brought his telescope to for people to watch the eclipse. Over 100 people showed up for the informal watch party. Bill Kalina photo

At its peak around 2:40 p.m. in our area, the moon covered nearly 80 percent of the sun, said Jeri Jones, a recent York County Parks retiree.

In the parking lot of St. John’s Blymire’s United Church of Christ in York Township —where his wife, Lou Ann Jones, serves as pastor — Jones set up a telescope fitted with solar filters and a second projection telescope for everyone to get a good view of the eclipse.

More:Moon blots the sun out of the sky in historic U.S. eclipse

Clouds threatened to ruin the once-or-twice-in-a-generation eclipse for more than 100 people gathered in the parking lot, but a crescent sun soon broke through, to the delight of all.

The moon and sun, veiled by clouds, reaches its peak eclipse for this area Monday, Aug. 20, 2017. Former county parks employee and astronomer Jeri Jones brought his telescope to St. John's Blymire's United Church of Christ for people to watch the eclipse. Over 100 people showed up for the informal watch party. Bill Kalina photo

As the eclipse started to wane, Rick Carr said he took off work for part of Monday, Aug. 21, to make sure he wouldn’t miss the eclipse, having seen the last one visible in North America in 1979.

Carr, of Dallastown, joked he will be teasing one of his colleagues who didn’t care to stop and watch the eclipse. 

“I’m sure we’ll be talking about it quite a bit,” Carr said.

Before the eclipse, David H. Koons said he wasn’t sure “standing in a parking lot will give me the results I want,” but afterward, Koons said he was glad that made the short walk from his home down the street.

Siblings Maggie, 8, and Cooper Sentz, 13, of York Township watch the eclipse at St. Johns Blymire United Church of Christ in York Township Monday, Aug. 20, 2017. Former county parks employee and astronomer Jeri Jones brought his telescope to for people to watch the eclipse. Over 100 people showed up for the informal watch party. Bill Kalina photo

Koons joked that a flight to Erie for the next visible solar eclipse in 2024 might even be in the cards, but “only if the stars align,” too.

Ed Bishop, of Dallastown, said he was just happy that the eclipse broke the animosity-filled news cycle of the last few weeks.

“For once, we have something to enjoy that’s not controversial,” Bishop said. “Everyone’s having a good time — that’s what counts.”

More:Schools in eclipse’s path seize on ready-made science lesson

A recall-initiated shortage of NASA-approved solar eclipse glasses spawned a sense of community in the parking lot, as several people passed their glasses around so all could get a good view of the eclipse's peak, which lasted only three to four minutes.

Gary Bowers, of Springettsbury Township, said he came to the church to use Jones’ telescope for his first experience of a solar eclipse at 66 years old.

“That was so cool,” Bowers said. “That’s one thing I’ll take to my grave with me.”

By 3 p.m., most of the eclipse watchers had cleared the church parking lot and headed back to the responsibilities of terrestrial life.