Around Town

PHOTOS: Hundreds gather at Turner Farm Park for partial solar eclipse event

Hundreds turned out across Fairfax on Monday to see the partial solar eclipse which reached nearly 90% totality in the D.C. area.

The Fairfax County Park Authority held four separate eclipse viewings at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park, Burke Lake, Historic Huntley and Turner Farm Park.

Ben Boxer, a spokesperson for the park authority, said around 400 individuals registered for the viewing events in total. The event at Turner Farm in Great Falls, known for its roll-top observatory, drew one of the day’s largest audiences, with nearly 200 individuals pre-registered and another 80 spontaneously joining.

Attendees began gathering at the park’s entrance around 1 p.m., eager to claim their patch of grass and witness the celestial spectacle.

While full solar eclipses happen every few years, they often occur in remote locations, such as over oceans, making them difficult to observe.

The next total eclipse is anticipated to pass over Greenland, Iceland, and Spain in 2026, and then over northern Africa in 2037. North America, however, will not experience a total eclipse until 2033, and even then, it will be visible only in Alaska.

Sebastian Arnez, the lead observatory educator at Turner Farm, dedicated the afternoon to engaging with attendees, explaining the reasons behind eclipses, their mechanics, and their historical significance as they awaited the peak moment at 3:20 p.m.

“I touched on how the Babylonians used to record eclipses on stone tablets, how the Greeks had a calendar to predict when the next eclipse will be, just kind of cool stuff like that,” he told FFXnow.

The viewing event attracted a diverse crowd, ranging from young astronomy buffs to seasoned NASA scientists.

Sitting next to his wife, retired NASA scientist Steven Ballard shared that this was their second partial eclipse experience, with the previous one taking place in Idaho in 2017. He also brought along his personal telescope, equipped with a homemade filter, to observe the event.

“I never did astronomy. I just the missions that went [to space],” he told FFXnow.

The eclipse achieved approximately 87% coverage in the D.C. area, with Turner Farm offering a clear view thanks to minimal cloud cover. As the moon intersected with the sun, the park dimmed and the air cooled noticeably, culminating in a striking crescent shape.

George Mason University student and nearby resident Joshua Liu managed to capture several photos below of the event using his smartphone through a telescope provided by the park authority which he shared with FFXnow.

Partial solar eclipse over Fairfax County on April 8, 2024 (courtesy of Joshua Liu)