Celebrating and Studying the Solar Eclipse
Amateur and professional astronomers, solar enthusiasts, students, faculty, staff, and members of the Howard County community celebrated the solar eclipse on August 21 at HCC’s campus and around the country.
While hundreds gathered on the front lawn of HCC’s Science, Engineering, and Technology Building, HCC alumnus Kenny Diaz watched the event alongside NASA in Cerulean, Kentucky, and students in the STEM Scholars program traveled to South Carolina.
Viewing Alongside NASA
Kenny Diaz, a military veteran, traveled to the central point of totality for the eclipse in Kentucky, where he viewed, photographed, and studied the eclipse just steps away from scientists representing NASA and researchers from around the country.
“It’s impossible to describe the experience,” said Diaz. “You just need to go and see it.”
Diaz, who earned two associate degrees from HCC in physics and mathematics (and is nearly finished with a third associate degree in computer science), is now simultaneously pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Southern New Hampshire University and two bachelor’s degrees in physics and astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park. While he had loved astronomy since he was a small child, Diaz thought such a career was out of reach. After serving 12 years in the U.S. Navy and completing four combat tours, Diaz decided it was time to set his sights on the stars. He chose HCC because of its reputation as a great college for adults, and he continues to be a strong advocate and supporter of the school – working in the Welcome Center, providing campus tours, and tutoring students in calculus, astronomy, and physics.
“HCC opened the window to the world of science,” said Diaz.
Currently, he is doing research on exoplanets, with the goal of pursuing a doctoral degree in astrophysics. One day, he would love to return to HCC to teach. What courses would he want to lead? Astronomy and astrophotography!
Students’ Views from South Carolina
The STEM Scholars made the journey to Greenwood, South Carolina, where they set up up two telescopes in a town park to view the totality of the eclipse. For many of the students, the experience made a lasting impression.
"It was one of the most memorable moments that couldn't be depicted with the camera, but instead one that could only be perceived by human eyes," said Bini Koshy Varghese.
Kathleen Hamilton remarked, "Getting to witness a total solar eclipse was fantastic, and sharing it with so many people who were as excited was a wonderful experience."
He Hie "Joy" Cho wrote, ”There is a first for everything, and this will be the most monumental "first time". Things got darker and darker and then THE time came... You could hear people screaming, cheering, bugs going crazy... everything is simply a revelation."
Noel Manoj also wrote, " I was bedazzled by the eclipse. It sure disturbed the crickets along with the birds. Everything became dark except for the street lights, the leaves shadows formed crescents, reminding us that nature is not to be underestimated."
Visit the STEM Scholars web page to learn more about this challenging honors program for recent high school graduates who are interested in studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
The View from Campus
As Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” played on speakers, students, faculty, and staff viewed the eclipse through solar glasses and solar eclipse viewers – some homemade out of shoe boxes to more “high tech” models built from wood fitted with glass lenses. This festive event took place the same day that college leaders, elected officials, business leaders, and community members cut the ribbon on the college’s brand new Science, Engineering, and Technology Building.howardcc.edu/future to learn more about the Science, Engineering, and Technology Building at Howard Community College and the academic programs taught inside.