“I was absolutely starstruck,” said Declan Jensen after Monday’s total solar eclipse.
Participation in a national total solar eclipse experiment gave Jensen, her former Grant Union teacher Sonna Smith and three other students a chance to follow in the footsteps of an astronomer.
Astronomers and amateur astronomers across America took part in a National Solar Observatory project called Citizen CATE (Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse).
The group, and 67 others from coast to coast, captured 1,000 photos each of the eclipse.
The photos were streamed together into a 90-minute movie, which is now featured at citizencate.org.
Grant Union sophomores Gage Brandon and Donavan Smith, and Jensen’s friend Anthony Allen, a 2016 graduate from Rocklin, California, were also involved in the local project that took place in Canyon City.
The high-resolution, rapid-cadence photos of the eclipse were not taken just for the purpose of creating a film, but to allow detail of the sun’s corona for astronomers to study.
Smith said she was glad her team of students met a few times to practice with the telescope, fitted with a camera connected to a laptop.
“The data we collected is awesome, and the totality was so much more intense than I expected,” she said. “Many thanks to Tom Schad and the National Solar Observatory for giving us this training and opportunity.”
Smith said a bonus to their involvement in the program is keeping the equipment, and free software, to use at school.
Brandon’s experience cemented his thoughts about pursuing a career that involves astronomy.
“With such a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime event, I think it’s convinced me this is the kind of thing I want to do with my life,” he said.
Donavan Smith said he was just about brought to tears at the sight of the eclipse.
“I’m amazed that John Day just happens to be in the middle of the path of totality,” he said.
Allen said the experience was beyond his expectations.
“I feel lucky and blessed, and unbelievably sad that I won’t be seeing it again in my lifetime,” he said.
“The light quality (as the sunlight faded) reminded everyone of looking at old sepia photographs,” Sonna Smith said.
During totality, the darkness was much like what one would see around 8 p.m.
Horses on the property became active, running around, Sonna Smith said.
The group recorded the temperature for NASA every 10 minutes, an hour before and an hour after the partial phases.
Air temperature dropped 11-12 degrees Fahrenheit and ground temperature fell 40 degrees.
Sonna Smith said they noticed shadows changing.
“Pre-eclipse shadows were sharp on the right edge and blurry on the left,” she said. “Post eclipse it was reversed.”
Jensen, now a Lane Community College student, said she feels fortunate to have been a part of the event.
“I always thought this town wouldn’t be able to provide any opportunity for me to test the waters of astronomy, and I’m glad I was wrong,” she said.