NASA highlights Jefferson City eclipse celebration
JEFFERSON CITY - The total solar eclipse lasted for only a few short minutes, but the anticipation of the rare event made Jefferson City an astronomical hotbed Monday.
In June, NASA named Jefferson City one of seven cities to host a live broadcast of the eclipse. Monday, the agency was at the state Capitol with a variety of attractions open to the public. Visitors were able to meet an astronaut, see space memorabilia, and play games with NASA representatives.
The event drew a wide range of visitors, both local and international. According to the Great American Eclipse, Missouri expected more than 1.2 million visitors to the state Monday.
"I came all the way from Canada and it was worth every penny," said Lorne Gessner, a native of Edmonton, Alberta.
Gessner said he made the 1,700 mile trip to Jefferson City last week for a chance to see something.
"Back home it was like a 70 percent eclipse," Gessner said. "That's still amazing to look but I came here to see something breathtaking."
"It was worth every penny for that two minutes and 29 minutes, it was spectacular. I wouldn't trade it for the world," he said.
The eclipse also gave first-time astronomy fans a chance to try and capture the once in a lifetime moment.
Gary Kasten, who made the trip from the Branson area, got his telescope "just four or five days" before Monday.
Kasten said he didn't even know how to use it when he got it, but tried learning quickly.
One person who helped Kasten was Texas high school astronomy teacher David Temple, whom Kasten just met.
Kasten said the eclipse furthered his excitement for seeing deeper into space.
“That’s one of the reasons I bought this is because I wanted to be able to reach out and really see as far out as I can see," he said. "And who knows, if I get really into this I may upgrade to a better and bigger telescope, who knows?"
The next total eclipse to make its path through Missouri will happen in 2024.