Totality awesome: 400 students travel north for rare eclipse

The April 8 solar eclipse was “definitely life-changing,” said Emma Linscomb ’27, a member of Cornell’s Society of Physics Students. 

“Experiencing it with a bunch of other people was such a special thing,” she said, “especially people you go to school with.”

Linscomb was one of more than 400 students who rode in eight charter buses filled with Cornellians to Rochester, New York, to witness the total solar eclipse. The Astronomical Society at Cornell chartered the buses and organized the trip. 

Back on campus, students gathered in locations including Libe Slope; Ho Plaza, at an eclipse viewing party hosted by Student and Campus Life; and the Arts Quad, where activities were organized by the Center for Bright Beams. Cornellians in Ithaca witnessed a partial solar eclipse, of 98.8% magnitude, while those in Rochester experienced the totality for 3 minutes and 38 seconds. The university paused activities from 3 to 4 p.m. so students, staff and faculty could experience the deepest part of the eclipse. 

two people standing with telescope
Students from Cornell flocked to Rochester in hopes of experiencing the total solar eclipse.
Gillis Lowry

In Rochester, clouds obscured the horizon, and as the countdown to totality in began, many nervous heads bobbed up and down, looking for hidden gaps in the sky. 

“The effects of totality were significantly noticeable even with the cloud coverage,” Linscomb said. 

The 90-mile adventure, which began at 8 a.m., took the group to the Rochester Museum & Science Center for its ROC the Eclipse 2024 Festival

Upon arrival, students were greeted by vendors offering eclipse-inspired cold brews and various cuisines. Dancers from the Rochester City Ballet stretched, artist Erika Lalita Thurkins painted eclipse goggles on the sidewalk, and a crowd awaited country musician Dylan Marlowe’s live performance. 

a person looking through a telescope
The festival welcomed hundreds, as locals, families and eager travelers gathered for one shared purpose.
Gillis Lowry

The festival welcomed hundreds, as locals, families and eager travelers gathered for one shared purpose. They bonded over eclipse anticipation, comparing travel distances in lines and taking photos sprawled out on the grass. 

“Everyone there seemed really interested, like a close family,” Frankie Chan ’26 said. “It felt like a new experience for everyone.”  

When totality arrived at 3:20 p.m., everyone was ready. In awe, many hollered, teared up or hugged friends as they were momentarily bathed in darkness. 

“To be honest, it was underwhelming when we got to Rochester and it was just heavy clouds,” Chan said. “But when it turned dark, it was really cool, and feeling the temperature drop a little was a very interesting experience.” 

Hannah Mitchell '24 is a communications assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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		person looking through binoculars at the sky