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Archive for Tuesday, July 16, 1991

ECLIPSE LED MAN TO MEXICO

July 16, 1991

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Eric Flescher's interest in astronomy has led him on journeys to darkness in Nova Scotia, Africa and Canada during the 1970s and, last week, to Mexico.

Flescher, Lawrence, said Monday he had a front-row seat to his fourth eclipse. This time he was in Mazatlan, Mexico, a tourist hotspot along the Pacific Ocean.

"People do it because it's fun, but it's also a unique spectacle," he said. "It combines science and a little entertainment."

Thrill-seekers and scientists saw the moon line up Thursday between the sun and Earth. A 160-mile-wide swath from Hawaii to Mexico's Baja Peninsula to Brazil was plunged into darkness.

"Each eclipse has its own qualities, but this was probably the prettiest I've seen. The horizon was a cobalt blue with yellowish and whitish clouds," Flescher said.

FLESCHER is working on a doctorate in science education at Kansas University. He has taught gifted students in the Shawnee Mission school district.

In Mazatlan, the moon blotted out the sun for 5 minutes. Flescher had a good view of the eclipse for about five minutes.

"We saw everything through a light layer of cloud," he said. "Some people saw absolutely nothing because of clouds. People at the hotel 1,000 yards down the road didn't see anything."

He said eclipse observers are at the mercy of the weather. Some take planes above the clouds to watch.

"You can study all sorts of things during an eclipse people, animals, how the environment changes," Flescher said.

Flescher said people on the beach were taking snapshots of each other and using their camera flash attachments.

"That didn't make a whole lot of sense," he said. "It kind of destroyed the effect."

"People think it gets pitch black, but it doesn't. I could see my camera dial settings."

THE HOTEL band played during the moment of totality when the sun was completely blocked by the moon.

He said 20 minutes before totality a flock of birds flew off a coastal island, perhaps because of temperature and wind changes.

Eclipse mania gripped Mexico, which offered one of the best viewing spots.

"There were shirts for sale everywhere," said Flescher, who brought back a T-shirt emblazoned with pictures of various phases of an eclipse.

He also returned with photographs of the eclipse, which will be incorporated into slide presentations that he presents to school children.

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