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Clouds Block Moon Blocking Sun In Many Areas

October 3, 1986

Undated (AP) _ The moon moved between the Earth and the sun on Friday, but clouds moved between the moon and many parts of the United States where the eclipse would have been most noticeable.

New York’s Hayden Planetarium, which had offered telescope views of the sky show to the public, was forced to cancel. The percentage of the sun’s face blocked by the moon was greatest in parts of the East, but clouds stretched from Maine to New Jersey and Pennsylvania and across parts of the Midwest and Plains states into the Southwest.

The view was good, however, from Atlanta’s Fernbank Science Center where several hundred people, including busloads of school children, watched the eclipse with the help of a 36-inch telescope and smaller scopes set up around the observatory.

The image from the giant telescope was projected on a viewing screen while the smaller scopes were equipped with filters to protect viewers’ eyes.

″We’re kind of learning something,″ said Jackson Woodward, a DeKalb County ninth grader enrolled in a science course at Fernbank. ″Yeah, this is pretty neat.″

Woodward said he and other students were using solar panels atop the observatory to measure the diminished solar radiation as 38 percent of the sun’s visible area was blocked by the moon.

The eclipse blocked 65 percent of the sun over New Jersey, but it wasn’t visible from the ground.

″Because of the cloudiness we can’t see anything. The telescope doesn’t penetrate the clouds,″ said astronomer Gerard Onsorge at the Newark Planetarium. The planetarium had planned to project the eclipse on a screen for visitors to see.

Jerry Vinski, director of the Newark Planetarium, said the next partial eclipse that will be visible in the United States will occur on May 18, 1994. The next total eclipse visible from this country will occur in 2004.

″The phenomenon happens at least once a year as the moon, Earth and sun travel through space. But the shadow doesn’t always fall on this continent,″ Onsorge said.

Eclipses often have been looked upon in awe and have been the focus of superstitions throughout history, Onsorge said.

″The Chinese believed a dragon was biting off the sun,″ he said.

Steven Gilbreath, a computer specialist from Georgia Tech, took a day off to set up his own telescope on the sidewalk outside the Atlanta observatory.

″My job is with computers but astronomy is my hobby,″ he said. ″I like astronomy. I think it’s about the only thing left that man can’t screw up. All he can do is look at it.″

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