The same scene played out ad infinitum across the lawn in front of Florida International University’s Stocker AstroScience Center.
After a bare moment looking through special eclipse glasses, out came the cellphones. Cameras filled with snapshots of blurry orange dots on black backgrounds. The lucky ones captured the sickle shape of Monday’s solar eclipse — and posted them online seconds later.
It’s difficult to capture a good shot, FIU student Victoria Avila conceded, but “I like to take pictures a lot,” she said. “I want to always keep it and remember that I’d seen it in my lifetime.”
Even as those blurry phone photos filled social media feeds, professional photographers raced to post their own crystal clear versions of the celestial event. Out on the grassy, sun-drenched lawn, few eclipse-watchers were looking at what everyone else posted.
“If I wanted a photo I’d just look at somebody else’s,” said Anthony Fontan, 19. “I just want to see it with my own eyes and experience it.”
He and his friends didn’t have glasses, or pinhole cameras (cardboard boxes rigged with aluminum foil, duct tape and white paper to show a retina burn-free image of the eclipse) or even a welder’s helmet.
He used squares of cardboard with the centers cut out and wrapped in black plastic from the warehouse where Fontan, a biomedical engineering sophomore, works after school.
“He Hialeah’d it,” his friend Christian Cazzaniga joked.
Across the sidewalk, dozens of students waited for hours to get a peek into the single telescope available. The handful of telescopes on the observatory’s roof were basically off limits due to space constraints and a one-in-one-out policy.
The larger, more carefully made pinhole cameras also had lines of hopeful photographers. Miguel Insignares, a 22-year-old economics senior, propped his up between his laptop case, one of his sneakers and a tote bag.
He balanced his creation — “made with my own two hands” — carefully and pointed out the tiny crescent shadow glowing on the white paper to a little boy squatted next to him.
“It’s crazy,” Insignares said. “The sun has turned into the moon.”