On Monday afternoon, August 21, members of the St. Mark's community gathered at the front of the School to experience the "Great American Eclipse."
Only rarely is a total eclipse of the sun visible in the United States. The last time was in 1979, and the last coast-to-coast total eclipse was in 1918. What made this eclipse special, almost unique, is that it was the first time in 137 years, since 1880, that a total solar eclipse occurred exclusively over the continental United States—no other country saw totality, although many countries, and many parts of the U.S. not in the direct path of the total eclipse, witnessed a partial eclipse of the sun. From Southborough, for example, eclipse watchers were able to see 63% of the event.
Faculty, staff, their families and friends, and even a few alumni and current students, enjoyed the eclipse experience this year thanks in great part to the efforts of SM science teacher Brady Loomer. After sending an email out to the entire community, Mr. Loomer set up two solar telescopes in the front circle. These instruments were specially tuned through filters and pressure to the wavelengths of light necessary to view the eclipse. He also provided handy eclipse viewing glasses, although many other people brought their own.
In the fall, Mr. Loomer teaches an elective course for Fifth and Sixth Formers entitled "Exploration Science: Air and Space," which touches on the topics of astronomy and space, as well as politics, economics, technology, and more. He describes it as a course which not only utilizes all the STEM disciplines (Science-Technology-Engineering-and-Math) but many aspects of the broader St. Mark's curriculum as well. Loomer has also worked to make the old astronomical observatory (now situated behind Choate House) functional again, and he is hoping to install a more advanced remote telescope unit beyond West Campus, and to see the formal study of astronomy re-introduced into the St. Mark's science curriculum.
The best part about the recent eclipse-viewing adventure at St. Mark's, said Mr. Loomer, "was seeing everybody being in awe of it. It is so cool for people to be able to experience things that don't happen on a regular basis."
The next total eclipse of the sun viewable from the United States will be in seven years, on April 8, 2024. The path of that eclipse will include northern New England. While 95% of that event can be seen from Southborough, only a few miles north, portions of Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire will experience totality. Perhaps a special road trip northward—maybe to the open lawn of Brantwood Camp on the west face of North Pack Mountain—will allow a new generation of St. Markers to witness a complete solar eclipse.