Solar eclipse draws crowd to Custer Institute & Observatory

Hundreds flocked to the Custer Institute & Observatory in Southold on Monday to view the solar eclipse in any way they could.

It was the first total eclipse across a section of the United States since 1918, though Long Island was able to view a partial eclipse in 1994. This year, the island had clear skies to witness about 70 percent of the eclipse.

Matt Campbell of the Custer Institute & Observatory estimated about 500 people showed up Monday.

“It’s like beyond astronomy now,” he said of the crowd that appeared. “Like, ‘Hey, let’s all have some fun out here.’ ”

Visitors brought beach chairs and blankets, some tanned or had a picnic, as they waited and watched.

“It really is a rare event,” Mr. Campbell said. “To see the sun getting blocked out by the moon, even though we’re not totality here.”

It’s been an opportunity to educate people about solar eclipses, Mr. Campbell said. People have been curious about the events, asking why they don’t occur more often, he said, though the most popular question he’s heard in the last three weeks was, “Can I get some glasses?”

The observatory set up telescopes, a makeshift camera obscura and divvied out eclipse glasses, while others brought their own.

Nancy Loeffler of Cutchogue arrived at the Custer Institute with a few ways to try and view the solar spectacle after some failed attempts to get eclipse glasses.

“I was too late,” she said. The glasses were swept up in stores and online, and some vendors hiked prices as the eclipse drew near.

Ms. Loeffler created her own pinhole view with a piece of cardboard and sheet of paper, but also had a bag of crackers after learning the holes could form a pinhole view as well.

Those who were lucky to snag a pair, whether weeks and days in advance or as they arrived at the observatory, shared. Custer Institute staff members also wandered the grounds with a few pairs to give visitors a chance to see.

Others made their own pinhole cameras with cereal and shoe boxes. Margaret Luckey, of Mastic Beach, said she had been hearing about the eclipse for the past two weeks and decided to view it at the observatory.

“We all started getting excited and went online last night and made the pinhole [camera obscura,]” she said, showing a box of Cheerios outfitted to project an upside-down image of the sun.

As Terri Czenszak of Mattituck looked through pair of eclipse glasses, she said part moon blocking part of the sun looked “like a bite out of a cracker.” Zachary Vavaz, 6, of Brooklyn said it looked like a phase of the moon.

See more photos below:

Photo caption: Vito Piché of Aquebogue glances up at the eclipse. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

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Fred Sandusky peeks at with a pinhole projector he made on the way to the observatory. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)


Zachary Vavaz, 6, of Brooklyn looks through a pair of eclipse glasses. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)


Linda Colombo of Mattituck takes in her first view of the partial eclipse. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)


From left: Steve Russ and Debbie Etimos of East Islip, with Linda and Russ Colombo of East Marion. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)


The weather cooperated on Monday to allow for a clear view of the sky. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)
Steve Etimos takes his turn to view the sun. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)