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The sound of the solar eclipse

David Martin Davies
Texas Public Radio
A woman helps a visually impaired man to try to look at the solar eclipse.

The moon’s shadow cut across parts of the United States, Mexico and Central America on Saturday. The Ring of Fire solar eclipse was a spectacular sight and it was also amazing for those without sight.

Using a specially made “Lightsound box,” a crowd at the San Antonio Vibrant Works — formerly Lighthouse for the Blind — was able to hear the annular eclipse.

The boxes were built by UTSA astronomy and physics students. A light sensor measures the intensity of the sunlight, which diminishes as the moon creeps in front of the sun. As the area in the moon’s umbra, shadow, grows and gets darker, the tone generated by the box gets deeper.

Then as the moon passes through the sun and it gets brighter again, the tone registers higher.

This allows those with little to no eyesight to experience the rare cosmic event.

Beverly Broom, the children’s events coordinator at San Antonio’s Vibrant Works, said the timing of this solar eclipse worked out perfectly. She was able to combine the eclipse party with their annual Halloween event.

“Just being visually challenged doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to experience everything that there is to experience,” Broom said, adding that experiencing an eclipse is more than seeing the moon pass in front of the sun’s face.

It’s an opportunity to gain a sense of the movements in our solar system, which can be done with sight and sound.

As the moon began to overtake the sun in the eclipse progression, Donald Farr — who has limited vision — was excited.

“Oh this is going to be a great one,” he said. “And they’re waiting for the one in April that’s going to be even better.”

That’s when parts of Texas will have another solar eclipse to listen to.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi