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Denton Record-Chronicle

Blacked out: Denton lines up to view solar eclipse

As the moon blotted out the sun overhead, a chorus of pubescent voices rippled across the crowd at Harpool Middle School in Denton. 

"So cool!"

"This is awesome!"

Garrett Grisham described the scientific phenomenon the best way an eighth-grader can.

"It was lit," he said.

Actually, Garrett, it was partially lit. He and his classmates joined the rest of the nation Monday afternoon to watch the solar eclipse. At its peak at a little after 1 p.m., the moon covered up about 75 percent of the sun in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Pictured is the solar eclipse viewed through special glasses.  Hundreds visited the University of North Texas Rafes Urban Astronomy Center on Monday to watch the rare solar eclipse. Vistors were able to look through and view the solar eclipse with the observatory's special telescopes. The observatory projected the image of the eclipse from its hydrogen-alpha telescope, an instrument that gives the viewer a closer, cleaner view of the surface  of the sun and the silhouette of the moon's craters and valleys.DRC
Pictured is the solar eclipse viewed through special glasses. Hundreds visited the University of North Texas Rafes Urban Astronomy Center on Monday to watch the rare solar eclipse. Vistors were able to look through and view the solar eclipse with the observatory's special telescopes. The observatory projected the image of the eclipse from its hydrogen-alpha telescope, an instrument that gives the viewer a closer, cleaner view of the surface of the sun and the silhouette of the moon's craters and valleys.
DRC

Some schools throughout the United States closed for the day or kept kids inside to prevent any potential eye damage from viewing the solar eclipse directly. In Denton ISD, 11 campuses planned outdoor activities, but only for certain classes. 

Staffers at Harpool, however, ordered 2,000 solar-filter glasses, got parent permission slips and brought the entire school outside.

Principal Jeff Smith remembered the last solar eclipse to track across the United States in 1979. He was a third-grader at Newton Rayzor Elementary School and saw the eclipse through a homemade pinhole projector. As in 1979, North Texas was only able to get about 75 percent coverage of the moon passing between the Earth and sun.

"I didn't remember everything from my time in school, but I did remember that day," Smith said. "This is a great opportunity and I'd hate to exclude some kids."

Hundreds visited the University of North Texas Rafes Urban Astronomy Center to check out the solar eclipse through special telescopes. The observatory projected a telescopic image of the eclipse, which featured a clearer view of the sun's surface and the silhouette of the moon's craters.

About 50 people set up shop at the downtown Square. Families, students and science enthusiasts craned their necks to gaze at the spectacle with solar glasses from the courthouse lawn. Some people were wearing repurposed welders' masks with sun filters, and a few others made their way to the top of the Texas Building to get a better vantage point.

One couple sat on the courthouse lawn for about an hour in anticipation of the event. Lauren Waddell and Trent Robason said it was well worth the wait.

"He's been researching it and looking forward to it and it was actually amazing," Waddell said. "It was a powerful day."

Pictured is the solar eclipse viewed through a saltine cracker as hundreds visited the University of North Texas Rafes Urban Astronomy Center on Monday to watch the rare solar eclipse.DRC
Pictured is the solar eclipse viewed through a saltine cracker as hundreds visited the University of North Texas Rafes Urban Astronomy Center on Monday to watch the rare solar eclipse.
DRC

Denton resident Dustin Pavelek kept an eye on the temperature and solar radiation during the partial eclipse. 

Pavelek, a mechanical engineer, received a weather station as a gift from his boss at Kelm Engineering. He publishes his weather data from northern Denton on the Weather Underground website.

"I thought it would be interesting because it tracks solar radiation," Pavelek said of the weather station. "It took about 30 minutes after the eclipse began for the temperature to drop."

And drop it did, by more than 5 degrees, from nearly 94 degrees Fahrenheit to about 88 degrees at Pavelek's weather station.

Pavelek thinks his equipment may have recorded a different drop in temperature from other weather gauges in the area, in part, because the data is logged every five minutes.

"It's been more interesting to watch it on the back side, to see the radiation climb back up and the temperature return," he said.

Back at Harpool, kids trudged back inside to resume the fourth day of classes. Even though the next solar eclipse will pass over North Texas in 2024, the students realized what a rarity they just witnessed in the sky.

"It was out first time doing something like this," eighth-grader Allen Pascullo said. "We were watching history."

Staff writers JULIAN GILL and PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE contributed to this report.

CAITLYN JONES can be reached at 940-566-6862.

FEATURED PHOTO: Students in Natikan Rojsatapong's eighth-grade science class use solar-filter glasses to view the solar eclipse on Monday afternoon. Harpool Middle School held a schoolwide viewing of the eclipse after ordering 2,000 pairs of solar glasses at the beginning of August.
Caitlyn Jones/DRC