Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

‘Breathing ball of fire’: UT witnesses first total solar eclipse since 1397

Kennedy Weatherby

Thousands of viewers, from the UT community and beyond, gathered on campus Monday to watch the first total solar eclipse in Austin since 1397.


“Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles blared over Gregory Gym Plaza as students filtered into one of 16 different Sun Spots around campus.

Families, faculty and thousands of students who were excused from class swarmed the University’s sun-viewing spots and lined up at inflatable igloos for Sun Chips, Moon Pies and burnt orange eclipse glasses.  


A sizable crowd formed at Main Mall with viewers sitting on blankets, chairs and the Tower steps. Student volunteers handed out glasses, snacks and helped students look through telescopes.


Sunny Side Trio performed different jazz covers of hit songs, including “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler, outside the Tower. 

By noon, about 100 people had gathered at Walter Cronkite Plaza. 

“I think it’s fun to make a whole day of it,” said psychology senior Ana Galvan. “I really liked the music choice because it’s all sun themed.” 


Theater education sophomore Nathan Ramos said he looks forward to seeing everyone’s initial reactions after the total solar eclipse.

“That’s a moment that everyone can share, and I love community building and community bonding over something that everybody can enjoy,” Ramos said.

President Jay Hartzell arrived at Main Mall to greet onlookers. Hartzell spoke with and took pictures with eclipse viewers. At 12:45 the UT Mariachi performed a variety of songs in front of the Tower.

At West Mall, seven-year-old Luna Nicolosi, who flew to Austin from Washington, stood first in line to view the eclipse through a telescope while repeatedly yelling “I’m so excited!” She spent the weekend asking the difference between a solar and lunar eclipse and concluded that the total solar eclipse would look like a “breathing ball of fire.” 


When the sun peeked through the clouds, students began grouping up with their friends to stare at the progressing eclipse together. For visiting students Abbey Dunnigan and Finn Rehal, the experience of watching the eclipse on campus was “surreal,” they said.

“You’re looking around and almost everyone’s got the eclipse glasses,” said Rehal, an exchange student from the UK. “I remember the partial eclipse in the UK, no one really cared that much … but everyone seems to be like, ‘Oh this is a total eclipse, we should go out and see it.’” 

The crowd at the Walter Cronkite Plaza grew to about 200 people. Economics sophomore Molly Boyd said she felt she was not getting the full eclipse experience because of the overcast weather.

“I feel like I just look through (my glasses) and I just see a sliver of orange and then it’s gone,” Boyd said. 


Virtually all movement stopped on Speedway. Hundreds of students, faculty and visitors alike grouped together, either huddled on the steps of McCombs School of Business or standing still on the usually bustling Speedway, peering at the cloudy sky. Onlookers greeted every sliver of the sun peeking out from the clouds with scattered cheers.

Back at the Tower, the Longhorn band took the stage with the Texas Spirit Squad cheerleaders. At approximately 1:30 p.m. the street lights turned on, and the darkening sky made the orange lights on the Tower glow brighter.  

Other sun-viewing locations took different approaches to setting the mood. At around 1:32 p.m., speakers at the Walter Cronkite Plaza started playing “The Final Countdown” in the minutes leading up to the eclipse.

At 1:35 p.m., some viewers started a one-minute countdown. Once the sun’s visibility shrunk to a small sliver, a wave of screams and cheers flowed from the Tower to the edge of The Drag.

Students turned on their phone flashlights and recorded their surroundings during totality. Gray clouds covered the sky, further darkening Speedway and Gregory Gym Plaza.


Finance junior Summer Sweeris said she expected more “drama” since the clouds covered the sun at certain points, but she appreciated the fanfare.

“You heard people oohing and awing, and (since) it’s kind of hard to see with all the clouds then you would know to look up,” Sweeris said. 

Following totality, radio-television-film freshman Ben Steele said he enjoyed experiencing his first eclipse surrounded by other people at Walter Cronkite Plaza.

“Even though it was cloudy, we got glimpses,” Steele said. “So it wasn’t so bad and it got darker than I expected it to be. … When everyone got excited, I got really hyped as well. … It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

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