6,000 sun-gazing visitors watch solar eclipse at Kennedy Space Center

Seminole State College hands out 5,000 pairs of solar glasses

By James Sparvero - Reporter

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. - The bleachers were filled and space in front of the grandstands were standing room only Monday as 6,000 reported guests watched the solar eclipse from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

"It's very cool," guest Mary Solomon said.

Younger visitors were also welcome to view the rare sight.

"It's amazing to see the moon go over the sun. It's a very once-in-a-lifetime experience," 9-year-old Claire-anya Likhachyov told News 6.

The Space Center's guests were composed of Central Florida locals, Americans from around the country and international guests.

"It's pretty exciting," Jake Scattareggia, who was visiting from Long Island, New York, said.

"Amazing, I've never seen anything like that," Juan Torres told News 6 after watching the eclipse.  

Torres, from Orlando, celebrated his 52nd birthday Monday as the moon aligned with the sun.

"I think it's unique. It's something that I'm very glad I had the opportunity to see," he said.

Astronaut John-David Bartoe is a veteran of the Space Shuttle program.

Monday, he answered eclipse questions from guests, many of them small children.

"It's just tremendous to see them excited about what's going on," Bartoe, who flew on the Challenger in 1985, said. "Millions of people are gathering right now all across the United States."

In Seminole County, Seminole State College opened its doors to the community for a special event. Organizers said the big day came after two and a half years of planning.

The college provided 5,000 pairs of glasses, one pair per family, to viewers, and said they ran out in within the first hour. The school also had telescopes available for those who didn't have glasses. 

An ophthalmologist at the event said he was pleased with the amount of people that took the warning about eye protection seriously and made sure to wear the proper glasses.

Central Florida sun-gazers will get another chance to watch the moon take a bite out of the sun during America's next total solar eclipse, which is set to take place in seven years.

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