Ming DeMers/Sun Senior Photographer

On April 8th, Cornell students were afforded the opportunity to witness a rare solar eclipse, with 100 percent totality observed in Upstate New York.

April 9, 2024

Cloudy Skies, Bright Spirits: Students Reflect on the Solar Eclipse

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Cloudy skies on Monday, April 8 did not deter Cornellians from quitting their books to gather on the slope or road trip northwards to view a rare solar eclipse, escaping the stresses of school to take in a celestial wonder.

This eclipse marked the first time since 1925 that New York fell in the path of totality. From campus, students were able to experience an eclipse with 98.8 percent magnitude through overcast skies. Ithaca’s close proximity to the path of totality also gave many Cornell students the opportunity to travel to see the full total eclipse.

On campus, classes were paused from 3 p.m. until 4 p.m. to offer students the opportunity to view the rare solar event. Student and Campus Life also hosted an eclipse viewing party from 2:30 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Ho Plaza. 

Min Kwon ’27 stayed on campus for the celestial event, watching the eclipse from the slope. He said that the overcast skies made viewing the eclipse difficult, with the eclipse only being visible for a few brief moments. 

“We went to the slope at 2:30 p.m. — it was packed with people,” Kwon said. “We waited for 30 to 40 minutes, and then someone yelled when the eclipse came for just a few seconds. We were all taking pictures and then a few seconds later, it disappeared again. We were very disappointed.”

Though he said many students were disappointed by the cloud cover, Kwon said the experience was worth it because it allowed everyone to meet with their friends and enjoy the warm weather together. 

Sarah Schiavo ’26 traveled with her friends to see the eclipse. She said the cloud cover inhibited her ability to see the eclipse itself, but she was still able to experience the near-complete darkness of totality.  

“My friends convinced me to go driving up north to go see it,” Schiavo said. “It was very cloudy — we did not use our eclipse glasses because we could not see the sun nor the moon. But it did get very dark outside. The lights of the park turned on, and the birds were kind of freaking out because it just got dark.” 

While many did not see the eclipse due to clouds, Finley Allen ’27 was able to still get a great view of the solar event while at a watch party hosted by the Syracuse Mets, who invited the public to its stadium to view the total eclipse.  

“[The Mets] let people onto the field to watch the eclipse. “It was pretty cloudy, but you could generally see it through your glasses,” Allen said. “It definitely surpassed my expectations. I feel like the most shocking thing was how dark it was. It was as dark as night and it got dark immediately and it got light immediately after.”

The Cornell Astronomical Society provided free buses for students to Rochester to view the eclipse in totality. The club’s outreach coordinator, Benjamin Shapiro ’24, explained that the club’s goal was to both increase public interest in astronomy and give students a chance to experience the total eclipse. 

“We know a lot of people on campus are not from here or do not have access to a car. We thought it was a very public thing to do to provide free buses to see totality,” Shapiro said. “[Eclipses] are rare and only happen in a certain location every hundred years. So not only is it a matter of providing public outreach and getting the public and people at Cornell into liking astronomy, but it’s also a matter of eclipses are awesome and good for people too.”  

Dylan Jackaway ’24, one of the many students who traveled to Rochester to experience the total eclipse, said that the total eclipse was surreal and was unlike anything he had ever been a part of before. 

“It really was like nighttime, but it felt very strange given that it was only for a brief moment,” Jackaway said. “There was some reflection off the bottom of the clouds from areas that were outside of the shadow however many miles away. It was like being in this alternate reality that was being created by this alignment by celestial forces or forces of nature, even though that’s not usually how I tend to think about such things.”

Many students who traveled to the path of totality found themselves missing class. Emma Linscomb ’27 also traveled in the buses provided by the Astronomical Society. Linscomb explained that even with the clouds, the experience was well worth being absent from class. 

“If there wasn’t any cloud cover, then it would be 100 percent cooler because you would get to see the solar atmosphere and stuff around the border,” Linscomb said. “The fact that we even got to see it partially was really cool. It was definitely worth missing class. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, honestly.”

Shapiro felt strongly that the buses provided by the Astronomical Society had its intended impact on students. He said that eclipse provided students with an escape from the stresses of college life, allowing them to live in the moment. 

“When you’re a student going to Cornell and you’re a semester, two semesters, or several years in, I think there’s this kind of haze you fall into,” Shapiro said. “You lose sight that there’s all this life out there.”

Shapiro emphasized the importance of breaking free from reality and embracing the beauty of nature, rather than embracing the stress of college.

“Students got a day where they could get out there and witness this beautiful event and not worry about anything,” Shapiro said. “They got to poke their head out of the usual rough-and-tumble dealings of a college student’s day-to-day life. You need to step out of that every so often and see the world and what the natural world has to offer.”