A once-in-a-generation event dazzled the southern Utah and northern Arizona area on the morning of Saturday, October 14. An Annular Eclipse, in which the moon partially obscured the sun during the first few hours of the morning, was visible in the sky. This area is well known for beautiful stellar phenomena, and so was well prepared to share this rare occurrence.
Around 750 people viewed the eclipse from the Kanab Center, and about 500 pairs of eclipse glasses were handed out to the community by Stellar Vista Observatory. Photo by Sylvia Sims.
The Stellar Vista Observatory (SVO), partnering with Kanab City and Kane County, hosted an event at the Kanab Center, with lensed telescopes and eclipse glasses aplenty for visitors to see the annular eclipse. Event attendees noted the visible darkening and noticeable drop in temperature during the more intense hours around 10:30 a.m. till noon as the moon was in position to absorb the most direct of the sun’s rays. According to SVO’s Eric Sims, visitors especially enjoyed the solar-filtered telescopes trained on the event, as they gave the opportunity to see sunspots: relative cool zones on the sun’s surface. Another rare occurrence during the eclipse was the visibility of Venus; generally, the sun’s light interferes with Venus’ visibility, but with the dimming during the eclipse, Venus “almost appeared like a bright star in the sky,” according to Sims.
Five SVO representatives were present to engage the community, along with site organizers from Kanab City and Kane County. Around 750 people were in attendance, and about 500 pairs of eclipse glasses were handed out to the community - SVO expressed their gratitude for Kane County’s Office of Tourism, Kanab City Library and the local schools providing glasses for free in preparation for the event. The event also included some of Stellar Vista’s educational content like their “Dark Sky Passports,” activity booklets - per Sims - designed to “help children (and adults) understand the night sky, including constellations and moon phases. People also like the stickers that come in the book.” The event organizers also offered thanks to the Kanab City Arts board, who organized the Red Rocktoberfest event the same morning.
By definition, such an eclipse coincides with the timing of the new moon lunar phase, meaning the eclipse event could be followed by Stellar Vista’s traditional star party in the evening. No moonlight means little light pollution, which means very visible celestial phenomena in the night sky - highlights include Saturn’s rings clearly visible, Jupiter’s moons, the Andromeda Galaxy and other rare night sky objects. Says Eric Sims, “my favorite part of the event was when someone saw Saturn and its rings for the first time and just yelled ‘Whoa!’ That’s always a highlight for me.”
Estimates put the next similar eclipse around 15 years from now, and the eastern US will be seeing a total solar eclipse in 2024.