ASHLAND — Twilight came at 10 a.m.
The crowd of spectators that packed the ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum lawn got to experience the phenomenon Monday morning as the moon's shadow masked most of the sun. Sitting on lawn chairs and blankets, and with many donning specialized sunglasses, they gazed skyward as the solar eclipse dropped the temperature about 7 degrees in less than an hour, making 10 a.m. seem more like 7 p.m.
"I didn't think the temperature would change that much," said Ash Shepherd of Ashland. "I was just shocked at how much light is still coming through with only 7 percent. Thought it'd get a little darker, but it was pretty neat to see, to see the transition."
Though not far enough north to witness the solar eclipse's "path of totality" where the moon was a complete attention hog, attendees at the ScienceWorks event — and across the Rogue Valley — still got to take part in a historic event. Gazing through UV filters that covered glasses and camera lenses, they spent an hour watching what started as a small, shadowy dent that grew until only a thin, bright crack remained just before 10:20 a.m. Just over an hour later, it was nearly gone.
"It's absolutely really the most amazing experience," said Alison Berliner of Ashland. "It gave me chills."
A National Weather Service gauge at the ScienceWorks facility showed the temperature had warmed from about 60 degrees at 8 a.m. to 72 degrees at 9:30 a.m., according to meteorologist Brett Lutz. By 10:28 a.m., it had cooled back down to 65 degrees, and stayed that way for 10 more minutes before it started to climb again.
"It didn't get dark, but (the temperature) definitely dropped," said Nicole Patigler, a friend of Berliner's visiting from the Lake Tahoe area.
ScienceWorks officials estimate 600 people purchased pre-sale tickets to their event, which included eclipse-related activities and demonstrations. About 270 purchased tickets at the door, and anywhere from 50 to 100 people just showed up to hang out on the facility's lawn and catch the main event. The first lawn chairs started to dot the lawn at about 7 a.m., ScienceWorks manager Erin Scott said.
"A lot of people know that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Scott said. "The length and duration that we're having is actually really rare and unusual and very special, and it's wonderful that people want to celebrate science this way."
Celebrate they did. At about 10:18 a.m., when the shadow reached the 93 percent mark and the sunlight had dimmed, cheers and claps from attendees rang out on the lawn.
It's an event Christine Shepherd of Ashland has been looking forward to for some time, a once-in-a-lifetime happening she experienced with her family. They'd been considering making the trip north to Depoe Bay, where family live, but decided against it because of the road forecast.
"We heard all the hype about the traffic," Shepherd said. "We decided it's not worth it."
It was an extra special day for Flynn Anderson of Napa, Calif. Born on a blue moon the night of Aug. 21, 2013, he turned 4 the day of a solar eclipse.
"He always has these big events around him," mother Kat Anderson said.
Frank Sobotka of Ashland had his camera at the ready, with a specialized filter he purchased about three weeks ago covering the lens. He last viewed a a solar eclipse 47 years ago while in South Carolina. That eclipse, which had a path of totality that ran along much of the east coast of the U.S., occurred on March 7, 1970. On Monday, he didn't catch sight of a total eclipse, but said 93 percent was still special.
"Our son went up to Salem with his wife's relatives, so they're up there in the path of totality," Sobotka said. "But this was good enough for us."
— Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.