Indiana cities experience total solar eclipse

<p>The solar eclipse reaches full totality April 8 over downtown Newcastle. Total coverage began at approximately 3:06 p.m. Andrew Berger, DN </p>

The solar eclipse reaches full totality April 8 over downtown Newcastle. Total coverage began at approximately 3:06 p.m. Andrew Berger, DN

For the first time in almost 1,200 years, East-Central Indiana, and its surrounding cities, experienced a total solar eclipse. All over the region, visitors, locals and students took the afternoon to take in the experience.

Anderson

Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana, was littered with friends and families waiting to view the 2024 total solar eclipse.

Along with open space, grills and trails, the park had the Muncie Astronomy Club present with telescopes available for public use.

Dan Malone, Muncie Astronomy Club outreach coordinator, said the club and the park have been planning for the eclipse together for two years. Though today was special with the eclipse, the club regularly goes to the park to allow people to better see the night or daytime sky.

"We want to show the night sky, or the daytime sky as today is concerned, to the public," Malone said. "We have lots of fun doing that, and we enjoy watching it [and] showing it to the kids."

A part of the reason the club regularly goes to the park is to allow children to see the sky without light pollution, he said.

Malone said he loved people coming out to the park and viewing the eclipse.

"It shows me that the public, the people haven't forgotten about space," he said. "With everything that goes on, we still have time to enjoy something natural, like a solar eclipse."

Atendees of the 2024 eclipse viewing event at Mounds State Park in Anderson, Indiana view the eclipse before totality April 8. Anderson was one of the cities in the path of totality, as were Muncie and New Castle. Olivia Ground, DN

For viewers Noreen Hazlett and Charles Kokkonen from Wisconsin, the eclipse totality was a new opportunity for them. Coming early to the park at 6:45 a.m., the two enjoyed the Muncie Astronomy Club along with park amenities.

Viewer Meredith Rogers, from Michigan, described the eclipse as "so beautiful that [she] cried."

She also thought the park was an appropriate viewing spot due to the indigenous mounds historically being an area to view the sky.

Anderson-native Roman Carter described it as a "once in a lifetime" event. As a hiking lover, Carter anticipated the natural aspects of the eclipse, such as the temperature dropping and the birds quieting down moments before and during the totality.

Carter enjoyed seeing people come out and be excited about nature and science, saying "Parks bring peace."

For Birgitte Miller, from Alexandria, Indiana, the 2024 solar eclipse was her second eclipse and her husband's third, describing it as "amazing."

"You could feel it getting, or see it getting darker, but it was an odd light," Miller said. "Then we could feel the temperature drop, so it was a whole experience. Not just what you visually experienced it was the physical experience."

Ball State Campus

The University Green and Frog Baby came alive with eclipse viewers, students and visitors alike.

Hammocks, picnic blankets and lawn chairs covered the area. Retired husband and wife Daniel and Mary traveled from St. Joseph, Michigan to experience totality.

“It’s just it's such an unusual, amazing event that we're like, we're retired, why wouldn't we drive 3 hours and go see something that we'll probably never see again,” Mary said.

There were plenty of visitors like Daniel and Mary who traveled a distance to view the totality, some, however, only had a short drive.

“I’m from Fishers, so it’s only like a 30-40 minute drive,” visitor Luke Ledford said.

While experiencing the eclipse was important for those in attendance, so was seeing the campus community coming together for an event like this. It created plenty of excitement.

“It's super cool. Even just walking out here seeing everyone out on the grass and just chilling and waiting is super cool to see,” student Abby McElroy said.

For Abby, it was her first time viewing a total solar eclipse, but she had previously seen a partial solar eclipse in 2017. She took pictures of the last one and had her camera ready for this one as well.

“I've upgraded my gear since then, so I plan to photograph it all and I'm very excited,” McElroy said.

As totality ensued, those in the area cheered and clapped. Phones were in the air as many took photos of the event. 

New Castle

The city of New Castle, Indiana, has been preparing for this weekend for months.

“It’s more than any one person can do,” New Castle Mayor Greg York said. “We just planned a big party.”

York is referring to the full weekend of events that the city organized to take place around New Castle. Since Friday night, the city has come together to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime event with food trucks, live music, bar crawls, fireworks and more.

Today, vendors, tourists and locals gathered downtown for a carnival, a live band and an opportunity to watch the eclipse with their community.

Co-founder of Chefs Rx Sweets Clayton Humphrey traveled to New Castle from Spiceland to sell freeze-dried candy and eclipse t-shirts. He said, on top of the spectacle that is the eclipse itself, he’s excited about how it’ll impact the community of New Castle financially.

“It's going to be amazing,” Humphrey said. “It's bringing a lot of people to this community and put a lot of money back into New Castle.”

New Castle native Josh Silver hoped so as well and has been preparing for today since the beginning of January. He said he and his two sons were beyond excited about how this weekend is impacting the community.

For the eclipse, Silver utilized the Trojan Youth Football League field outside the main part of the city to fundraise money for gear for underprivileged youth on the team. Community members were encouraged to pay to park and give money back to the program.

He said that none of this would’ve been possible without York.

“Mayor York has done a phenomenal job, with getting activities uptown, getting things going on, being ever present and making sure New Castle has put its best foot forward in what we're doing,” Silver said.

Indiana based funk band Toy Factory live performs April 8 in downtown Newcastle. Newcastle brought Toy Factory to perform during eclipse festivities. Andrew Berger, DN

Across the city, people gathered at Baker Park to experience the eclipse. Dotted across the green space were telescopes allowing people another option to view the eclipse.

Two of these telescopes belonged to Andy Salmonson and Philip Blanco. Salmonson and Blanco are friends from San Diego, with the latter being a professor of astronomy at Grossmont College in El Cajon, California.

“I wanted to do this since I was a kid, I was into telescopes and space growing up. This is super cool to experience,” Salmonson said.

Blanco called the atmosphere during the totality serene and very calming. He also said that across the street, street lights came on during totality due to the lighting.

For Blanco, today’s eclipse represents something bigger; after seeing multiple eclipses during his life, he says this is the last eclipse he will travel and see.

“I told myself, ‘I don't want to put myself through the stress of Eclipse chasing,’” Blanco said. “I had such a good experience here. I can't imagine it being any better anywhere else.”

Chris Schornak also had a telescope with him. This is the second total solar eclipse Schornak has seen; he saw the 2017 eclipse with some of his friends in Nashville.

Schornak chose New Castle to be the spot to view the eclipse because of the four-minute-long totality, which was two minutes longer than Nashville’s in 2017.

Schornak, who is from the Detroit area, said New Castle reminded him of his own “little town” back home, and said it was a great spot to watch the eclipse.

“This [Baker Park] has got plenty of space for everybody,” Schornak said. “It’s not crowded, and we’re not stepping on each other. That’s why made us come to New Castle.”

The next solar eclipse to happen in the United States will be on August 23, 2044. 

Muncie

Muncie locals and people from the surrounding midwest area gathered downtown armed with picnic blankets and lawn chairs to witness Monday’s total solar eclipse.

Those who gave up their afternoon to watch it were excited to share the experience with loved ones.

Andy and Mackenzie Johnson, a father-daughter duo, traveled eight hours from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“I’ve never seen [an eclipse] before, and I dragged him along,” Mackenzie said. 

Andy said didn’t mind traveling for such an event.

“I came because it was an opportunity to spend all day with my daughter,” he said.  

Chair of Downtown Development Cheryl Crowder orchestrated the celebratory festivities happening in downtown Muncie and wanted people and families to feel welcome while watching the eclipse.

“We really tried not to overthink this [event] too much, letting it be gentle and easy, allowing the eclipse to shine, [since] it is the superstar of the day.” 

A couple looks up at the sun as the moon moves in front of the sun April 8 in downtown Muncie, Indiana. The total eclipse lasted a total of four minutes. Mya Cataline, DN

The event featured music and vendors from surrounding businesses, but not much beyond that, which was intentional. 

“We didn't feel like we had to provide [much], just a place to gather,” said Crowder.

Second-year dance and sociology Ball State University student Savannah Heemer was among a group of friends lying with books and sunhats, taking advantage of the nice weather and grassy resting area.

 “I texted everyone, ‘This is what’s happening tomorrow. Be there or be square,’” she said. 

It was important to Heemer to have a day out. The eclipse offered the perfect opportunity. 

“Classes were canceled [and] there was this cool event happening downtown, so we may as well get together.”

As temperatures dropped and the sky became darker, anticipation within the crowd was mounting. At 3:07 p.m., the city of Muncie was engulfed in totality for approximately four minutes, followed by fireworks, cheers and the accomplished feeling of partaking in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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