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On any other Sunday, the library would have closed at 5 PM, but thanks to Bob Black of the San Mateo County Astronomical Society, who realized that the building’s unique dome would become one of the most spectacular pinhole projectors around, the building remained open to the public after hours for a viewing of the 2012 Annular Solar Eclipse.
Something for Everyone
The evening proved educational for kids and adults alike. Children made starfinders and sundials with the help of student astronomy volunteers from Foothill College, while members of the San Mateo Astronomical Society and other generous locals set up their telescopes and pinhole viewers in the parking lot, sharing the view with all those interested.
As the eclipse got underway, Bob Black introduced San Carlos Library architect, George Miers, whose perforated dome design was the focus of much of the evening. Mr. Miers explained that the design of the dome was based on the concept of a simple kitchen colander, which fit perfectly over the dome on his architectural model, casting pinpricks of light on the interior. While the sun shining through the San Carlos Library dome is normally a sight to behold, its effect was even more remarkable once the eclipse began.
The Dome’s Effect
The sun usually projects perfectly-round dots of light onto the library’s interior walls as it shines through the dome. As the moon began to cross the sun’s path, these dots slowly became slivers. Because so many dots of light are cast through the dome, viewers witnessed the spectacular sight of thousands of “crescent suns” on the library’s walls.
A Rare Opportunity
Though perhaps not the obvious choice for an eclipse viewing, the San Carlos Library stood up to the job remarkably. The event was as unique as the occurrence of the eclipse itself, bringing strangers together to talk, learn, and gaze. Those who attended this spectacular, rare event are sure to remember it for a lifetime.
Michelle L. is a Youth Services Librarian at San Carlos Library, where she is lucky enough to view the sun shining through the dome every day.