With Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Bad Moon Rising' blaring out of the speakers, S&T's Havener Center lawn was ripe for a total solar eclipse party. But Creedence couldn't match what the crowd had come to witness - it was a main attraction performance that needed an encore.
With Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ blaring out of the speakers, S&T’s Havener Center lawn was festive. A giant beachball expressing various student sentiments was tethered to the lawn and groups spread out on blankets just like a day at the beach. Large antennas were hovering over the university’s ham radio club, W0EEE, as they tweaked the knobs on their ham radio sets, calling through a sizzling ionosphere. By 12:30 p.m. the light was already getting getting weird and that only added to the excitement of many on the campus, experiencing their very first total solar eclipse.
Four freshmen from India studying computer science were excited to be in Rolla to witness the special event. Kammna Pal said, “It’s something very rare, and we consider ourselves lucky to watch it now, here in the U.S.”
“We will have memories [of this] of the total eclipse—they didn’t get to see it in India,” said Nischitma Krishna.
“This is amazing—I didn’t even know about this!” said Kaysi Lee from St. Louis.
Over at the ham radio club Comm Center it was all business. “Radio propagation has been studied a lot, but not during a total solar eclipse,” said Alex Hoeft, one of the members of the club.
Hoeft said the sun’s surface activity excites the air where radio waves are carried, sometimes enabling radio waves to travel around the world. If the atmosphere isn’t charged as much, radio signals won’t travel as far. This group was collecting data to see how a total eclipse could affect radio wave propagation.
“All the people making contacts from all over the world, from many locations, will see if they had more or less range than they expected,” explained Hoeft.
Clarity and signal strength are the order of the day, according to Aaron Boots, a senior from Kansas City, majoring in electrical engineering and president of the ham radio club. “We measure in decibels and look at the longitude-latitude grid for positioning location that is not GPS (global positioning system).” He says they use what some may view as old school, but GPS is not reliable for several reasons.
As it started to get dark, locusts in the surrounding trees started a metallic chorus. Light in the sky further west beyond the university buildings had the vestiges of a fading sunset. The crowd grew quieter and just took in the strange phenomenon. A few voices exclaimed, “awesome.”
And then it started to get lighter, as quick as it got dark and continued to brighten the landscape.
The experience was shared by others in the county. St. James residents were joined by out-of-town visitors from along 1-44 to enjoy the eclipse. Sybil’s restaurant hosted eclipse onlookers and invited them to enjoy the event from their patio.
The students of St. James high school gathered on the football field, looking at the sun through their provided eclipse glasses. St. James High School Principal, Joe Stammers, said the event went well and served as an excellent educational opportunity for the students.
“It went really well, the kids were good and the staff was organized,” Principal Stammers said. According to him, students and teachers both greatly enjoyed the event.”