Epic Total Solar Eclipse Watch Party on The Hill

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School is bracing for a rare and spectacular event hitting Central Texas at approximately 1:35 p.m. on April 8, 2024. That’s when students, faculty and staff will get the rare opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse. The moon will completely block out the sun, causing the sky to go dark in the middle of the afternoon. Science Department Chair Frank Mikan says the duration of totality on campus is expected to be just under two minutes. Totality will last more than four minutes in some places in the Texas Hill Country and in Waco.

“For it to land on a populated track of land right through the heart of the country is pretty darn rare,” said Mikan. “It may not happen for another thousand years to have something like this come through Texas again.”

Spartans will follow a special schedule that day, which includes an hour-long watch party and extended eclipse-themed chapel talks led by Mikan. Solar glasses, student-designed t-shirts and Moon Pies will also be handed out for the momentous occasion. 

Mikan says it’s important to be aware of what totality will sound and feel like, so you can absorb the full experience of the moment. 

“I don't think anybody is prepared for the darkness and the cooling that happens, and the quiet,” said Mikan. “If there's birds singing, they'll stop singing. If there's dogs around, they might get agitated, you know, like ‘what's going on?’ Because it's out of the norm for them.”

The word eclipse comes from a Greek word that means failure or something is wrong and Mikan says, in ancient times different civilizations reacted in unique ways during the “weird event.” The Chinese believed a dragon was eating the sun, and so they went around setting off firecrackers. Others would bang pots and pans to try and scare away whatever was causing the darkness. 

The longtime physics instructor and astronomy guru is not only looking forward to sharing this historic moment with students but he’s also excited about the lasting impact of the eclipse. 

“What I really hope is [students] get themselves excited so that either they do science down the road or, as parents, take their kids to a planetarium, or if there's going to be an eclipse of the sun or the moon, they take their kids out to look at it and say, ‘here's what I saw when I was a kid,’ and maybe that kid will become the scientist.”

Those who miss the April 8th eclipse will have to wait until 2044, another 20 years, to see a total eclipse in the United States. Next time, the path of totality will cross Oregon, Virginia and Florida. In fact, the last total solar eclipse that passed through the United States in 2017 did not come close to Texas.

Click here to learn more about the total solar eclipse and download Mikan’s perfectly curated eclipse-themed playlist. In addition, feel free to join a virtual live Q&A with Mikan on April 3.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213