Columbia High School Joins Together For The Solar Eclipse

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From the South Orange-Maplewood School District, April 9, 2024:

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. – The moon blocked the sun on yesterday and the Columbia High School Astronomy Club members became the heroes.

The club made available six high-powered telescopes, some binoculars, and about 27 pairs of sunglasses – all meeting NASA’s safety standards for sun-viewing –  in front of the high school on Monday afternoon. By 3:10 p.m., more than a hundred students and staff members had gathered to see the highly anticipated solar eclipse.

“If I knew the turnout would be this great, I would have requisitioned sunglasses for everyone,” said the club’s advisor, Physics Teacher Randall Post.

Physics Teacher Randall Post, Astronomy Club advisor, looks skyward with a pair of binoculars equipped with sun filters.

Post was appropriately dressed in a t-shirt bearing the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album. (Classic rock fans recall that “Eclipse” is the title of the album’s last song.)

As the minutes ticked down to the peak eclipse time of 3:24 p.m., the scene in front of the high school looked like a 1960s sci-fi movie with nearly everyone looking skyward, some with mouths wide open in awe.

Astronomy Club Communications Manager Lydia Ebinger, a sophomore, said the club had considered taking a field trip to a place where the total eclipse could be seen.

Columbia High School students in awe of the eclipse.

But there were advantages to staying home – not the least of which was raising the visibility of the Astronomy Club.

“We’re making the most of this opportunity,” said Ryan Gaykowski, one of the club’s co-presidents.

At the table where sunglasses and binoculars were handed out, students and staff could also make a donation to the Astronomy Club and get information on upcoming club events. (Model rocket launching at Maker Madness on April 27th, anyone?)

A CHS student views the eclipse through a telescope provided by the CHS Astronomy Club.

As the moon started yielding the sky back to the sun, Art Teacher Curtis Grayson III saw something at ground level that impressed him.

“About 90 to 95 percent of the students here are not on their phones,” he said. “They are finally in the moment just living life and taking it in.”

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