Eclipse watchers party at Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland for rare event – CBS News

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On Monday morning, all across the Bay Area, people took time to look up in wonder as the solar system put on a show. The partial eclipse seen in California drew a large crowds to science centers, including the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland.

The Chabot Observatory is usually quiet on Monday mornings, but not this time. A sold-out crowd filled the plaza, doing something their mothers probably warned them about.

“Yeah, we’re definitely going against our basic instincts, right now,” said eclipse viewer Taylor Chan from Morgan Hill.  “We’re staring directly at the sun, which is what we’re told not to do!”

But there were all manner of devices to do that safely. From foil safety glasses, to telescopes of all sizes, with filters removing 99.9% of the light.

Kasey Welten finally had a chance to try out her new “smart telescope,” a book-sized viewer that displayed a perfect image of the partial eclipse on her iPhone.

“Yeah, yeah…I was ready!” she said.  “I’ve been waiting months for this, so I’m really happy this came along.”

Amateur stargazer Dr. Albert Brooks was eager to show off to others what he could do with a piece of viewing foil and a cereal box. 

“Raisin Bran will be excited that Dr. Brooks made a Raisin Bran viewer!” he said with a laugh.

As people outside viewed the partial eclipse, inside, the real show was being televised, as the total eclipse moved up through Mexico and Texas.

It was a breathtaking sight, as the crowd gasped when the sun completely disappeared when the telecast showed the total eclipse from Mazatlan, Mexico.

“Feels so powerful, right? It feels magical, almost! And the aura is really beautiful!” said Christine Millar, visiting with her family from Campbell.

“I just feel lucky to be alive,” said her son, James, “to see the beautiful stuff in this world.”

ALSO READ: 2024 partial solar eclipse leaves Bay Area eclipse watchers starstruck

He was right about being lucky, because Chabot astronomer Gerald McKeegan said we just happen to live on this planet at the perfect time to view such an unlikely celestial event.

“The sun is about 400 times farther away. Coincidentally, the sun is about 400 times bigger than the moon. So, the two sets of numbers line up just right so we can see a perfect total solar eclipse,” said McKeegan.

But that won’t last for long, at least in astronomical terms. Because the moon is slowly moving farther away from the Earth at the same time the sun is growing larger.

“So, 200 million years from now, the Sun’s going to be bigger in the sky, and the moon will be smaller in the sky because it’s farther away,” said McKeegan. “Dinosaurs would not have had this, and whoever’s around 200 million years from now, they’re not going to get it either.”

So, this is a special time. But in the rush of their lives, people often lose sight of the natural wonders that surround them every day. Sometimes it takes something magical to bring that back into focus.

“Every once in a while, something like this happens and it reminds us that we are part of a much larger universe,” said McKeegan.  “And I think that’s one of the great things about it.”

And just like that, the eclipse was over. The sun and moon parted ways and people went back to their everyday lives. But, perhaps, with the realization that the space we live in is much bigger than we know.

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