Thousands attend annular eclipse viewing at Scobee Education Center
October 23, 2023
It was an event that promised to be amazing and awe inspiring – the rare annular solar eclipse that would pass over San Antonio skies.
The Scobee Education Center marked the occasion with “La Fiesta Del Sol: Celebration of the Sun,” a free eclipse-viewing event on the San Antonio College campus on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Thousands of people showed up to the Scobee Education Center to see the eclipse, when the moon would pass between the sun and earth, significantly blocking the sun’s light. San Antonio was positioned directly in the path of the annular eclipse, creating a unique opportunity to witness the phenomenon.
“San Antonio was one of the best places on earth to view the annular eclipse,” said Rick Varner, director of the Scobee Education Center.
However, the event got off to a cool start with cloudy skies threatening to dim the excitement.
That didn’t stop the crowd from enjoying the day. SAC hosted a variety of activities in a festival-type atmosphere, including hands-on activities for children, programs in the Scobee Planetarium, food trucks, a stage with speakers and music, and much more.
The event was funded in part by a NASA Community Anchor Award given to the Scobee Education Center in recognition of its role as a local community resource supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. The Center is one of 21 institutions across 16 states selected for the award.
The Boeing Company also has provided funding as part of an additional grant to help educate our community on the importance of space. Boeing employees in Houston work closely with NASA at the Johnson Space Center to provide engineering and manufacturing support for the International Space Station during its more than 20 years of continuous human habitation.
The Celestron Telescope company provided special solar telescopes for safely viewing the sun, with assistance from the Scobee Education Center, SA Astronomical Association, and the SAC Society of Physics students.
Nationally known astrophysicist and author Dr. Jeffrey Bennett spoke at the event. Bennett has devoted his career to math and science education. He has taught at every level from preschool through graduate school. He is the author of seven award-winning science books for children and most, recently, he received the Klopsteg Memorial Award for education from the American Association of Physics Teachers.
Bennet’s latest book, titled Totality! An Eclipse Guide in Rhyme and Science, was available during a book signing at the event.
College and community groups were also present. SAC’s First Responders Academy had police and firefighting vehicles on campus for guests to inspect up close.
H-E-B handed out free samples of its “Texas Starry Night” ice cream and food trucks
including 375˚ Catering, Midnight Smokers BBQ, and A Twisted Taste were available on campus.
Several members of the media were also at Scobee to capture the event, including the San Antonio Express-News, KSAT 12 News, KENS5, WOAI and KABB-TV, the Weather Channel and Spanish language networks.
Fortunately, the skies cleared and the crowds cheered as the eclipse reached its maximum point just before noon and Johnny Cash’s song “Ring of Fire” played across the campus.
Varner recommends that guests keep their solar filter glasses from this event for another rare celestial event coming to the area soon: a total eclipse of the sun on April 8, 2024.
While annular eclipses occur approximately every 18 months in different locations around the world, it’s a unique experience to be directly in its path like San Antonio was on October 14, and even more rare to experience two eclipses within a year, Varner said. It’s a phenomenon that won’t happen again in San Antonio until Feb. 25, 2343.
The Scobee Education Center at San Antonio College is a 22,000-square-foot facility combining the Scobee Planetarium, next-generation Challenger Learning Center, the newly opened Santikos Micronaut Center, and a rooftop star deck and observatory. The Center is dedicated to engaging students and the community in life-changing experiences that inspire pathways to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) careers.