SOLAR ECLIPSE: 'We're so little in our world'

By Anthony Leone and Andrew O'Brien, Digital Team Coverage
Last Updated: Monday, August 21, 2017, 5:58 PM EDT

For about 30 minutes on Monday afternoon, the sky got a little darker and the temperatures dipped slightly across Central Florida as shadows painted the ground and the area was treated to a rare celestial treat: a total solar eclipse.

Central Florida wasn't within the 70-mile-wide path of totality, but there was still enough of an eclipse to change the sky and bring people outside to experience a rare event.

A rare total solar eclipse crossed the U.S. from the Pacific Northwest to the Southeast. The 70-mile-wide path of totality — where many experienced night for a short period of time — entered the country in Oregon and crossed 12 states before leaving in South Carolina.

It was the first total solar eclipse to sweep the United States from coast to coast in nearly a century.

In Central Florida, many experienced a partial solar eclipse, about an 88 percent eclipse. Monday's eclipse stared at about 1 p.m. and lasted until 4 p.m. The main event happened in Central Florida at 2:51 p.m.

Unity at eclipse-viewing party at Dr. Phillips Center

For many at local viewing parties, there was camaraderie in tracing down the coveted solar eclipse-watching glasses and staring in unison at the sky.

"I'm 14 years old and this is something I might not ever see before," Tyler Robinson said. "Something people I'm related to and people who came before me didn’t see."

Around 8 a.m., Robinson hopped in an Uber bound for the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando. The high school freshman was the first in line, plopping a chair down on the expansive lawn across from Orlando City Hall.

"I thought that 8 o'clock, there was already going to be 50 people out here waiting. Got out here, I'm the only one," he said. "I'm so interested in these events in our sky. How we're so little in our world."

As Robinson mused about life, he met others, like Luis Saldarriaga, who wondered what it would be like to witness such an awe-inspiring event.

"It's like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, my mom says the last time she saw this, she was like 12 years old," Saldarriaga said.

The 15-year-old Saldarriaga remembers watching rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center. Monday, he came downtown with his dad to get glasses, patiently waiting until the moment the Orlando Science Center handed them a pair.

The Orlando Science Center handed out more than 2,500 glasses at Dr. Phillips for free.

Yet, they still ran out, leaving many like Maya Gomes forced to share with others.

Gomes, though, didn't mind: Clutching huge, pink, balloons, the woman was celebrating her 45th birthday with a few family members, thousands of strangers and mother nature.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime event, and very nice to share your birthday with the environment," she said. "It's very special to see something that amazing."

Those who work at the Science Center, like Angella van Gelder, loved that science suddenly took center stage.

"Oh, that was just so nice!" she said. "Just a chance to learn more about the sun and the eclipse. We had our staff doing science demos just to tell them how the eclipse works."

As onlookers spread out on the lawn and turned to the skies, there was a brief moment where all time seemed to stop.

"It's kind of symbolic of renewal, bringing everybody together and reminding we're all on the same planet," said Olivia DeMarco, with the Dr. Phillips Center. "We need something unifying. We all have to take care of each other. I'm hoping maybe this will maybe cue that up in some people's minds."

For those who arrived hours prior, it was well worth the wait.

"It's just an amazing experience," said Robinson, clutching his solar glasses. "I'm so happy, I've been looking at the sun the whole time."

"I can tell my kids that I saw this when I was your age," added Saldarriaga. "It's like, a really big deal."

— Julie Gargotta, News 13 reporter

Orlando Science Center draws in large crowds

On a typical Monday, the Orlando Science Center sees about 1,500 visitors, but Vice President of Marketing Jeff Stanford said about 3,000 people showed up to witness the solar eclipse.

One of those people was Ainsley Mcpherson, who realized just how important this was for her and her brother Matthew.

"The whole eclipse and just being here is an amazing experience to be a part of because not everyone can get to see it," the Deltona resident said.

One Orlando resident was in awe of what he was seeing.

"It's unbelievable … and I hope to see it again in 2045," said Tom Stubbs.

One of the center's education specialists, Spencer Jones, said he was happy to see so many people excited and waiting in anticipation of the solar eclipse.

In fact, he said it made an impression on him.

"Don't underestimate how interested people are of science and space," Jones exclaimed.

It is this train of thought that Stanford hopes will inspire some of the children who came to the center to become the next great science visionary or the astronaut who walks on Mars.

"We want to use the eclipse as a gateway to get people interested in science," he said.

— Anthony Leone, News 13 digital media producer

Thousands gather at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Thousands of people were at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Monday for the rare solar eclipse.

The Edwards family said they traveled from England to see the eclipse as it passed over Brevard County.

"It was just so cool as my niece, Amy, will tell you," said Lisa Edwards, as she watched the eclipse with her husband, two sons and niece. "It's all about science, and this is the place to be for that."

About 7,500 people came to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to view the eclipse. The area saw about 85% totality.

"We were going to go further north, but then the cloud coverage was going to be there, so what better place to be than Kennedy Space Center?" Michele Kendall said.

— Caitlin Wilson, News 13's Brevard County reporter

Weather cooperates after soggy start at Seminole State College

Despite stormy weather, thousands of people in Seminole County gathered to watch the solar eclipse Monday.

Suzanne McLellan gathered at Seminole State College, but it wasn't her first solar eclipse. She said she saw one in February 1979.

"I was teaching agriculture, and I let all my kids use welding helmets," McLellan said.

A lot has changed since, but McLellan said she was once again amazed by Monday's spectacular sight.

"I was surprised at the amount of light visible with so little of the sun showing," she said.

Seminole State handed out 5,000 solar glasses. The demand for them created lines that wrapped around campus buildings Monday morning.

Craig Stafford and his son were two of the first in line.

"The last time this happened, I was 8 years old, so the next time this happens, I might not be alive," Stafford said. "So, I thought it would be a great experience to share with my son and come out and share in this phenomenon. It's actually pretty cool."

— Jeff Allen, News 13's Seminole County reporter

Totality in South Carolina

We had a crew in Newberry, South Carolina to cover the solar eclipse. Newberry was in the 70-mile-wide path of totality. Tony Rojek, the chief photographer for News 13, gives you a look as to what gear he has set up for today's event. Check it out: