HARTINGTON — Many area residents only had to look up Monday to take in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For the first time in nearly a century, a solar eclipse passed through the United States all the way from the west coast to the east coast.
While most area residents only had to look up just before 1 p.m., Monday, to see the celestial show, others went to great lengths to view the eclipse.
Since the eclipse’s path of totality passed right through Nebraska, both Hartington-Newcastle and Cedar Catholic schools took advantage of this prime teaching opportunity.
Cedar sent a bus of students in seventh, eighth and ninth grade to the Stuhr Museum, Grand Island, to see the solar eclipse.
HNS traveled down to Kearney where the students watched the eclipse with 10,000 other people in the University of Nebraska-Kearney football stadium.
Cedar Catholic science teacher Shanna Dendinger said it was quite an experience.
After viewing the eclipse, she now wants to make sure she can do it again, the next one that comes near is in 2024.
“I already looked it up,” said Dendinger. “Dallas is one of the good places. I’m thinking I am going to go.”
Dendinger is not alone in this feeling. After all, there were tourists who traveled from all across the world to view the solar eclipse in Nebraska.
“We saw some license plates from California, and it was really cool to see people from so many places,” said Cambelle Nieman, a seventh grader at Cedar Catholic.
Grand Island did apparently have some weather creep in later, but in Kearney it was clear skies all the way.
“There were a few clouds but nothing bad,” said HNS junior Willa Scoville. “It was a really good view.”
Hartington-Newcastle Principal Corey Uldrich traveled down with the students, and he said the experience was surreal.
“They did a countdown on the stadium scoreboard to when the actual eclipse would hit and it was spot on,” said Uldrich. “Like 10,000 people counting down for 30 seconds, and then when it hit there was a big ‘Ahhhhhh’ moment. Then I think people were just dumbfounded for the next minute and a half.”
In the path of totality, it was said by multiple people the sky got dark, there was a beautiful horizon of colors, and animals were confused into thinking it was night.
“Birds started singing their night songs, crickets and cicadas started chirping, and there were even bats flying around,” said Dendinger.
Up in Hartington, though, students saw a nearly full eclipse, but it was still partial so the effects were not as great. Hartington’s 96 percent eclipse showed a tiny sliver of sun still, and it left some students a little underwhelmed.
“I think it may take some time for it to sink in to the students how special this event was,” said Cedar Catholic principal Terry Kathol.
Some students like Matthew Schaefer wished they had made the trip down to Grand Island.
Cedar Catholic students went up to the Hartington Community Complex to view the eclipse, despite a severe thunderstorm warning about a storm that was beginning to pass through the area.
The decision paid off, as there were clear skies to the south enough to give a good view of the eclipse before the rain moved in from the north.
Students who went down to Grand Island and Kearney truly seemed captivated by their experience after the long bus ride home, while some students that saw it from Hartington did not appreciate the gravity of the moment.
This natural event may be something that takes a while to sink in, even for those that were in the path of totality. It was a rare event that humans can’t help but marvel at, just like every other animal on the planet.
The next eclipse is April 8, 2024, and passes from Texas up through New York and Canada.