Eclipse is Life-changing Experience for CCSU Alumna


[Jessica Johnson looking excited at 4:30AM on the bus to see totality; Diamond ring photo by Justin Motta]

Editor’s note: Jessica Johnson, CCSU alumna, posted the following to Facebook shortly after experiencing her first total solar eclipse. She graciously allowed us to share it with you

Words cannot describe what I have just experienced. It was dodgy early on and we drove almost 4.5 hours this morning to get out of the way of a nasty frontal system. We made it to Marion, IL and only had to bribe a few towering cumulus clouds to leave. I have never seen an eclipse before and I still don’t know if I am composed enough to describe it or even process what I have just witnessed. Seeing the total eclipse, corona, and everything else associated with it has rendered me speechless (which doesn’t happen too often). It was like an amazing dream and it was worth the wait. I just sat there and cried; staring at something that was so beyond what pictures or stories could ever give. If there was ever a time or an experience where I was physically/emotionally reminded that I was a part of something so much larger than myself this eclipse exceeded it and happily reminded me of the star dust in which I was born and will return to. Just so wonderful and awe inspiring, I am still emotional and will remember this for the rest of my life. Thanks to Kris Larsen for making this a reality for me. I can’t wait for the next one! I have no pictures because I wanted to just experience it, but I have friends who will share pics with me and I will share with you [See above picture from Justin Motta].

— Jessica Johnson, CCSU Class of 2016


What to do with those eclipse glasses now

[NASA eclipse glasses donated to the Burlington Library by NASA Solar System Ambassador Kris Larsen; empty box that once house the 1000 pairs of eclipse glasses Kris Larsen bought and donated to the public for the eclipse]

Now that the Great American Eclipse is over, what do you do with those eclipse glasses? Given the pains many of you went through to get them, it seems a shame to just discard them. You can put them in a safe place until the April 8, 2024 eclipse (which will be 90% partial in Connecticut, and total in parts of New England and New York state). If you do this, you should examine them for any holes or defects BEFORE the 2024 eclipse (in case you need to get new pairs). You can always use them to view large sunspot groups. Only large groups are seen with just eclipse glasses and the eye, so it will not be an everyday event. To monitor sunspot activity, I recommend the Spaceweather website.

If you want to pass on to someone else the excitement you felt at observing the eclipse, you can donate your glasses (if they are in good condition) to Astronomers Without Borders, who will redistribute them to schools in South America for the next two total solar eclipses. Please follow the directions on their website.

Of course, you might just hang on to them as a memento!

More eclipse adventures!

[Left: partial eclipse as viewed from CCSU; Right: 350 million year old crinoid fossils collected in Missouri]

Don’t forget to visit our sister blog,, to see more eclipse adventures, both at home and on the road!

Coming to this blog soon (after we recover!) a very personal reflection on her first eclipse experience by alumna Jessica Johnson, and a rather humorous overview of the eclipse expedition by Kristine Larsen.

The Great American Eclipse Does Not Disappoint!

[Clockwise from left: Ending diamond ring (photo courtesy of Justin Motta); CCSU astronomy professor (and AAVSO President) Kristine Larsen, alumna Jessica Johnson, and AAVSO Director Stella Kafka prepare to leave hotel in Columbia, MO at 4 AM for the eclipse; pinhole images of a slender crescent sun seen through tree leaves near Marion, IL]

Wherever you viewed the Great American Eclipse from, we hope it was as amazing an experience as it was for CCSU professor Kristine Larsen and alumna Jessica Johnson. After years of preparation, including numerous public talks and giving away 1000 pairs of solar eclipse glasses, Larsen traveled to Columbia, MO with former research student Jessica Johnson to witness Larsen’s fifth and Johnson’s first total solar eclipse. When the weather reports turned iffy, three buses of eclipse aficionados made the decision to leave Columbia at 4:30 AM on eclipse day and travel nearly five hours to Marion, IL in search of the perfect skies. More details on this life changing experience will follow, but as you can see from the above pictures, it was well worth the early morning trek.

Eclipse-mania in Columbia, MO!

The university town of Columbia, Missouri is in the throes of total eclipse-mania this weekend, in preparation for Monday’s big event! CCSU astronomy professor Kristine Larsen and department alumna Jessica Johnson are among the thousands of eclipse enthusiasts who have descended upon Columbia in anticipation of the Great American Eclipse. The city has rolled out the red carpet in preparation of its day in the sun. While some businesses are advertising special eclipse viewing events, others are planning to be closed during the eclipse, in order to allow their employees to watch alongside all the out-of-town visitors.

Wherever you are planning to view the eclipse from, please be safe and have a great time!

Where to watch the Great American Eclipse online and in person


[Projection system for viewing the partial eclipse in Connecticut]

If you are planning on watching the [partial] Great American Eclipse from Connecticut and don’t want to watch it alone, here are some locations that are having live viewing parties. Please contact them directly about registration and other important information.

There are also websites and tv channels that will stream the total eclipse live.



More safety tips for the August 21 solar eclipse

There has been a lot of press lately about safely viewing the August 21 solar eclipse. The bottom line is that only the 2.5-ish minutes of totality are safe to observe with your unaided eyes (and the eclipse will NOT be total in Connecticut!). Those of us in the partial eclipse zone should NEVER look directly at the sun without proper eclipse glasses! If you want to be 100% safe, use a pinhole projection system, such as the box pictured above, or to watch it on television or on the internet.

If you want to use eclipse glasses, remember the bottom line is that the safe use of eclipse glasses is YOUR responsibility. The following are steps that I use in my own eclipse viewing:

  1. Make sure your eclipse glasses are obtained from a reputable source. Note that this is merely one step in the process and by itself cannot guarantee your eye safety! The glasses must have labeling that says “safe for direct solar viewing” or “safe for direct viewing of the sun.” Glasses need to meet the ISO 12312-2 standard adopted in 2015 (these glasses block UV and IR as well as visible light). The AAS ( has a list of some reputable sources (be sure to read their various notes and disclaimers). Updated: There are apparently bootleg glasses on the market that claim to meet these standards (and their websites make false claims). Make sure you only buy eclipse glasses from reputable sources (such as a museum or science center). There are many libraries and amateur astronomy groups that are handing out free glasses as well.
  2. Inspect the eclipse glasses for any defects or damage both when you initially receive them and, most importantly, RIGHT BEFORE you use them. Make sure that the filter material is not loose or compromised in any way. Inspect the filter material for cracks, creases, holes, tears, gaps, or other problems. Hold the glasses up to a light (NOT THE SUN) and look for any pinpricks or other defects that let light through. If you see any of these defects, immediately destroy the glasses and throw them away.
  3. Do not use the eclipse glasses with any optical aid except your contact lenses or eye glasses. The eclipse glasses are shaped that way because they are only meant to be used with your eyes. Do not use them with cameras, binoculars or any other optical aid. Wear them over your regular eyeglasses.
  4. Put your eclipse glasses on BEFORE you look up at the sun. Place your eclipse glasses on, fully covering your eyes, before you look up at the sky. At this point you should not be able to see anything through the eclipse glasses – everything should look black. Once you have them firmly in place, look up in the direction of the sun. Do not remove your eclipse glasses until you are looking down toward the ground again. Do not look at the partial phase with just your eyes, or through clouds. This applies whether the eclipse is 10% partial or 99% partial! Always supervise children’s use of eclipse glasses at all times. Very young children should probably not use eclipse glasses because of the risk of them taking them off and trying to look directly at the sun. If you have any doubts about their ability to safely use eclipse glasses, switch to pinhole projection immediately.
  5. Make sure the sun looks sharp and relatively dim when seen through the glasses. The sun should look comfortably dim when seen through the glasses. The image should also be crisp, clear and not have a halo or any other strange effects. If the image looks fuzzy, or you feel it is too bright, look away from the sun immediately, remove the glasses, destroy and discard them. This image shows you how the sun’s image should appear in proper eclipse glasses.

Note that these are merely some steps that I personally take; for more information, see the AAS eclipse website. A detailed report on eclipse safety can be found here. Again, the ultimate responsibility for safe eclipse viewing is yours! If you feel uncomfortable in any way with your eclipse glasses, please err on the side of caution and switch to pinhole projection.

Note: This document does not constitute medical advice. Readers with medical questions should contact a qualified eye-care professional.