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Mount Hood Community College astronomer looks back at the August solar eclipse that swept across Oregon and the United States

COURTESY PHOTO: PAT HANRAHAN - Mount Hood Community College Planetarium Director Pat Hanrahan took this photo of the approaching moon shadow during the solar eclipse on Aug. 21.

Mount Hood Community College Planetarium Director Pat Hanrahan spent the Aug. 21 solar eclipse sprawled out in a spacious field in Albany with his daughter, soon-to-be son-in-law and three cameras by his side.

Deterred by pessimistic weather forecasts, Hanrahan had missed the 1979 eclipse that passed through Oregon. But although he wasn't in the center of totality for this eclipse either, he savored the one minute and 45 seconds of witnessing the full solar eclipse.

"It's something I had been dreaming of for a long time," Hanrahan said.

And last week, Hanrahan shared his experience and knowledge about the eclipse at Mount Hood Community College's "Remembering the Eclipse: An Amazing Event." Hanrahan led discussions on Oct. 3 and Oct. 6.

Just before the eclipse, Hanrahan captured a photo of the moon shadow approaching the earth at 1,500 miles per hour. But once the moon covered the sun, he focused his eyes on the sky rather than the lens. He was surprised by the stark temperature drop that accompanied the eclipse, which prompted him to put on a coat after sweating earlier, and that he could still see constellations in the sky despite the moon's crowding presence.

"People were celebrating, blowing off fireworks. Everyone was in awe," Hanrahan said.

At the MHCC planetarium, Hanrahan presented a few more of his photos from the eclipse as well as photo taken by Astronomer Magazine and other photos he could gather including solar prominences, spots on the sun as the moon departs, shadow bands and groups of people celebrating.

"They take pictures of things that are impossible to see with the naked eye," Hanrahan said.

Hanrahan also presented a simulation of the eclipse using the Worldwide Telescope software that is based on photos of the night sky taken by observatories.

"I wanted to give people an understanding of what was actually going on," Hanrahan said.

Also, he discussed a recent three-mile-wide asteroid, which was bigger than the asteroid that rendered the dinosaurs extinct 65 million years ago, coming within four million miles of earth and another approaching asteroid that will come even closer to the earth on October 12.

The presentation included back-and-forth dialogue and Hanrahan chatted with others who entered the path of totality including some who went to the Oregon Eclipse Festival in Big Summit Prairie.

"I thought it was interesting hearing from people about what they saw. The whole purpose was to add more meaning for people who did see it and curiosity for people who didn't get a chance to see it," Hanrahan said.

Hanrahan says the eclipse event sparked an interest in astronomy among people who otherwise don't spend much time thinking about the universe, stars or otherworldly phenomena.

I like the opportunity to bring people in the planetarium who otherwise wouldn't have a chance to see it," he said.

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