Residents embrace solar eclipse

Nathan Thompson
Marjie Cheshewalla took part of her lunch time Monday to experience the solar eclipse viewing party at Ben Johnson Park near Ninth Street and Lynn Avenue in Pawhuska. The viewing was organized by Jerry Koenig and friends, who supplied three telescopes and safety glasses. Nathan Thompson/Journal-Capital

Pawhuska area residents gathered Monday at Ben Johnson Park on Lynn Avenue to experience the historic solar eclipse as it passed through the midday Osage County sky.

The viewing was organized by Jerry Koenig and friends, complete with three telescopes and safety glasses for those who wanted to peer into the sky.

Although Pawhuska was just outside the “path of totality” for the eclipse, the moon blotted out approximately 89 percent of the sun at its peak, which occurred at 1:07 p.m.

That small detail, however, didn’t keep the local fans away. Dozens of people, young and old, “Oohed” and “Aahed” at the rare celestial phenomenon crossed Ben Johnson Park.

Marjie Cheshewalla took part of her lunch break from working at the Osage Nation and came out to the park for the eclipse viewing.

“I passed this earlier as they were setting up and thought I would come out when the eclipse was going on,” she said. “It’s really awesome since this is a total eclipse. All the other ones that were partial eclipses, I never got to see in person.”

According to NASA, Monday’s total solar eclipse was visible coast-to-coat in the United States for the first time in 99 years. The last total solar eclipse visible from the contiguous U.S. occurred on Feb. 26, 1979, but only five states in the Northwest got to experience the “path of totality,” turning day into night.

While Pawhuska viewed a partial eclipse, those elsewhere, within a 2,600-mile band stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, got to see the moon pass in front of the sun and block it completely, NASA said.

Koenig, who owns nine telescopes, said he is a huge fan of astronomy and was glad to share the excitement with his Pawhuska neighbors.

“For 20 years, I have been an astronomy addict,” Koenig said. “I’ve paid the price for the equipment and I want you to see what I get to see all the time. People deserve to see this stuff, and in the world today, no one stops to enjoy it.”

Astronomy is a very enjoyable thing for Koenig, whether that be for a solar eclipse or regular night viewing of the stars and planets.

“What’s not to like about it?” he said. “To come out at night and look at Jupiter and see four moons, or to look at Saturn with the rings tipped towards us and see the Cassini Division… This is God’s greatest creation. Enjoy it.”

The next total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024, and will cross along southeast Oklahoma and almost all of Arkansas.

However, for a “path of totality” to impact the Osage hills and prairies, fans will have to wait a bit longer. A total solar eclipse will pass northeast Oklahoma on August 12, 2045.