PRINCETON: Library gears up for solar eclipse viewing party

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Kelsey R. Ockert

Phillip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Janie Hermann can’t wait to look up from Palmer Square in two weeks and see the solar eclipse.
She hopes lots of people will join her.
As the public programming librarian at the Princeton Public Library, she has helped put together a day for the community to gather and watch the natural phenomena during a viewing party from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 21.
“We’re both geeks,” Hermann said as she sat at a table with technology librarian Kelsey R. Ockert on Monday.
At the party, spectators can munch on free watermelon and cookies, and will receive complimentary viewing glasses so they can safely look at the eclipse. People are urged to bring a blanket and lawn chair.
During the day, there will be arts and crafts, including an opportunity to ask questions of an astrophysicist. The Princeton University Department of Astrophysics is co-sponsoring the party.
Both women said they are looking forward to the eclipse, with interest high in town, too. Hermann said eclipse-themed books are flying off the shelves of the library.
“People have been so excited,” Ockert said.
Princeton is not in the “totality path” of the full eclipse, but will see a large portion of it, the women said.
Mayor Liz Lempert said she plans to be at the party, having seen an eclipse before. As a girl growing up in California in 1979, she was in elementary school making a pinhole viewer to see it, she recalled Monday.
“But this one sounds like it’s supposed to be even more dramatic,” she said, “because I think … the eclipse is more total than the other one.”
Council President Jenny Crumiller recalled being on vacation in Egypt, to see the pyramids in 1999, when there was an eclipse. The event had an effect on the locals.
“Because of the superstition, like we had the whole place to ourselves, everyone was so scared,” she said. “But it also was so bright there, like the desert, that even at the total eclipse, it was still bright.”
Leading up to the viewing party, the library is playing host to two eclipse-themed lectures open to the public. The first will be on Thursday, at 7 p.m., by university astrophysical sciences professor Amitava Bhattacharjee. That will be followed on Aug. 16, also at 7 p.m., by university art professor Rachel DeLue talking about paintings of a total eclipse in 1918.
For more information, visit www.princetonpubliclibrary.org.