Solar eclipse captivates East Portlanders

Find out why a huge crowd gathered at OMSI to view this once-in-a-lifetime celestial phenomenon …

All eyes are on the sky as the solar eclipse begins.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Monday morning, August 21, began like many others this summer, with clear skies and bright sunshine illuminating outer East Portland neighborhoods, and nothing to hint that the long-awaited and much ballyhooed solar eclipse was about to begin.

But, by 9:30 a.m., the view of the world grew dimmer, as the moon crossed in front of the sun from our perspective, slowly but surely blocking its rays.

Although it wasn’t a holiday, traffic was light all over the area, as people skipped work to observe the astronomical phenomenon. In the near-empty parking lots of retail stores and office buildings, workers donned special eclipse viewing glasses and stood, transfixed, looking up to watch the eclipse unfold.

A crowd gathers in front of OMSI as the solar eclipse begins.

With his homemade “camera obscura” rig, James Rollins gets a safe look at the solar eclipse.

The largest “viewing party” in the metropolitan Portland area was just east of the Willamette River at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

By the time the moon began to cover the sun, more than 1,500 people had gathered in the plaza in front of the museum, most with eclipse viewing glasses in hand, waiting for the event.

As the eclipse took place, special soundtrack music played, produced by the local All Classical Portland FM radio station for solar eclipse, while OMSI Education Matthew Steiner narrated the spectacular natural event.

During the solar eclipse, many sat silently watching, while others broke out in laughter, and some wept openly.

Viewers in Salem, where the eclipse was total, marveled when they saw the “diamond ring” effect just before totality. NASA image

Although Portland didn’t experience a total solar eclipse, 99.47% of the sun was covered, giving those at the OMSI viewing party a satisfying experience when the maximum eclipse occurred at 10:17 a.m.

The ambient light dimmed, and its color tilted a bit towards blue; the temperature cooled; street lights started to come on. Tiny images of the eclipsed crescent of the sun appeared underneath trees as leaves acted as “pinhole cameras”; and some observers noticed “shadow bands” rippling across the ground.

“This is just amazing; I never thought I’d see anything like this,” James Remer told East Portland News, adding that he’d brought his family from the Hazelwood neighborhood to experience the solar eclipse at OMSI.

The darkened skies and distinct shadows from the created eerie visual effects – until minutes later, as the moon continued on its path, the light and heat of the sun began to return.

People gathered in OMSI’s plaza continue to gaze at the solar eclipse.

Too soon for some, the eclipse was over in the Portland area – as the moon’s shadow raced across the United States, reaching the Atlantic Ocean just over an hour and a half later.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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