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ROC the eclipse

The April 8 total solar eclipse

Do you know where you’ll be on April 8 at 3:20 p.m.? Many of us have made plans to gather with friends and don special eyewear. Schools will close as Rochester hosts a one-of-a-kind celebration. Thousands will travel to our area from far away just to be in the path of totality under Rochester’s first full solar eclipse in nearly 100 years! 

Our city is situated to provide a perfect view of the eclipse, and experts are estimating up to half a million out-of-towners will be visiting our area. The predicted height of totality will happen at 3:20 pm., when the sky gets cool and dark, and the sun, moon, and Earth form a perfectly straight line. This syzygy, or alignment, blocks the solar light from reaching the Earth. The entire eclipse will last from 2:07 p.m. to 4:33 p.m. in Rochester.

The Mother of Nations 

According to the Haudeosaunee, the world’s oldest confederacy began under a solar eclipse. With the nations at war with one another, a man named Hiawatha attempted to unify the chiefs of the Oneida, Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, and Onondaga into one grand council. It was ultimately the voice of Jigonhsaseh that brought them all together. She became known as the Mother of Nations and began the tradition of clan mothers. The leaders of each nation were gathered together, weaving their individual strands of wampum into one giant belt. They held it up as a total eclipse of the sun happened above them. Hiawatha spoke the law of peace for the first time as the nations gathered beneath the tree of peace and cast down their weapons of war. 

For local Haudenosaunee, the upcoming solar eclipse holds a deeper meaning. Many believe the spirit of Jigonhsaseh will be felt, and a sense of peace will be brought to the people of Rochester. 

Patricia Corcoran, an enrolled Tonowanda Onondowaga of the Bear Clan, teaches Indigenous and environmental studies to pre-kindergartners through twelfth graders at the Harley School in Rochester. She says, “People can stop what they’re doing, look up at the sky, reflect, and think about taking care of each other and the Earth. She is a living entity. We view her as our mother and all of nature as relatives. The sun is our older brother, the moon is our grandmother. So the two aligning is very important, special, and exciting. Something bigger than all of us.” 

Adventurous starts 

Astrologers have historically looked at eclipses as harbingers of change. Many believe that solar eclipses represent dramatic events and discoveries as well as powerful portals of transformation. Astrology has long been used to describe people’s psychology, health, fate, and destiny. Local astrologer Jake Linder says that the idea of fate is not what you might think. 

“Fate in astrology is the understanding that certain events or energy happen to people differently than others, and as such, it’s up to you to determine how you want to handle that energy.” Linder says that even though solar eclipses are known for sudden change, they are also known to bring adventurous starts to new paths in life “whether that is an exciting new beginning or an unexpected but fun twist of fate. The universe gives you energy, and it’s up to you on what you want to do with it!” Linder is excited that we all get to experience this incredible spectacle from our own backyards.

Community connections 

Everywhere you go in Rochester, you’ll find eclipse-themed events, from a three-day celebration of light at the Strong Museum of Play to twilight hikes and library talks. 

The Actor’s Studio of Rochester is partnering with Geva, Writers & Books, and the RMSC with a playwriting contest for young writers. Five scripts will be chosen and read by professional actors under the eclipse as it happens at 2 p.m.

The Memorial Art Gallery, George Eastman Museum, and the Genesee Country Village & Museum are all planning to hold events. Viewing parties are also planned to take place at Tinker Nature Park, Rochester Public Market, and Parcel 5

The “Total Eclipse of the Port” will happen in Brockport, which boasts an extra five seconds of totality compared to the City of Rochester. The Town of Perinton has planned a party at the community center that includes swimming, a bounce house, and food trucks. 

The biggest celebration will be a three-day festival called ROC The Eclipse, starting April 6 at the Rochester Museum and Science Center on East Avenue. Packed with hands-on activities, speakers, live entertainment, eclipse merchandise, and food trucks, the eclipse will be accessible and exciting to literally everyone under the sun. 

Notable keynote speakers will include American astronomer, skeptic, and popular science blogger, Phil Plait, otherwise known as the Bad Astronomer and popular TikTok influencer and educator, Cate Larsen (AKA the Groovy Geologist). 

The Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) will be hosting its After Dark series: Galactic Getdown on April 6 for the twenty-one and over crowd, featuring a Silent Disco at the Planetarium and eclipse-themed drinks. Astronomy on Tap NYC will be hosting space bar trivia and featuring two local astronomy researchers. 

The RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium will also present a captivating new show, “Eclipse 2024!” designed to enlighten audiences about the awe-inspiring phenomena surrounding a total solar eclipse.

Watch with someone you love 

Patricia Corcoran teaches that we need to look up more often and appreciate what the Earth has provided. She challenges us to notice the sun and the cardinal directions. “We rely on our phones and GPS to guide us so often that many of us don’t know where we are anymore. Literally and figuratively. Feel which direction the wind is coming from.” 

So, whether you’re viewing from your backyard or gathering at a festival, be sure to order your protective glasses and make a plan to stop and look up. You it won’t be visible in New York again until 2044. Corcoran adds, “Don’t worry about taking pictures, there will be photographers for that. Just make sure you’re standing with someone you love.”

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