Dozens gathered at the University College of the Cayman Islands observatory Monday afternoon to celebrate an honored guest who never appeared. The day’s highly anticipated solar eclipse hid behind the clouds, as remnants of tropical wave Harvey dampened Cayman’s viewing plans.
“It’s just like, the best laid plans of mice and men,” said Bill Hrudey, who runs the UCCI observatory named after him.
“The original intent was to have two telescopes set up at the observatory and then we would send those images down to the classroom screen so that people could see them.”
While the Cayman Islands was not on the total eclipse path, the islands would have observed the moon blocking out 55 percent of the sun, with maximum cover occurring at 2:07 p.m. Had there been sunny conditions, observatory staff expected hundreds of revelers for the rare event.
Instead, around 30 guests settled for the back-up plan and viewed live-streaming video of the eclipse from inside a UCCI auditorium.
Richard McLeod of the Astronomical Society said the event still served an educational purpose. It was a focal point for 25 students who attended a three-day science and math summer camp.
“A lot of their observances this afternoon will be based on the eclipse. They are going to be making pinhole cameras to see how those work as well,” Mr. McLeod said.
“From the point of view of people interested in science, this is the kind of thing that gets everyone interested. Today so many people are interested. It would have been a great opportunity for us to get students going into the science area,” he said.
Dr. Hrudey hoped the eclipse would contribute to scientific research, including a better understanding of the sun’s corona.
“The eclipse is important from a scientific perspective in many respects. Just to give an example, the corona, which is kind of the atmosphere on the outside of the sun, you only get to see it during a total eclipse,” Dr. Hrudey said.
“It turns out the corona is very much hotter than the rest of the sun. Nobody knows why. So they are going to pay special attention this time around.”
While solar viewing glasses were not necessary in Cayman, hundreds of eclipse shades were made available as free keepsakes.