Fremont County missed 'totality' in 1979, but CWC science team didn't

Aug 20, 2017 From staff reports

Fremont County residents last got a solar treat comparable to what's coming Monday in February 1979, but it wasn't quite total.

A well-documented and widely viewed solar eclipse in February of that year didn't quite extend into Fremont County at 100 percent blackout. The maximum coverage in Riverton was about 95 percent.

It was a memorable and spectacular show - but some students and faculty at Central Wyoming college wanted more.

They drove 370 miles due north to Lewistown, Montana, in a delegation led by Dr. Joe Dolan, then the head of the CWC science department.

Ranger reporter Steve Sherwood accompanied the group 38 years ago.

"It was like watching a whole 24-hour day in two minutes," said CWC student Charlotte Keffer in Sherwood's account of the trip.

Student senate president Diane Thomas said of the experience, "it was a scary feeling. It really seemed for a minute that the sun would be stuck behind the moon."

The CWC delegation was treated to 2 minutes

and 40 seconds of total blackout. They were joined at their observation site in Montana by more than 100 others, including a hot-air balloon and some military aircraft that took to the sky during the eclipse.

A news story in the Ranger on February 26, the date of the eclipse, noted that would be the last total eclipse in the region in the 20th century.

"Another will not come around until 2017" the Associated Press story added.

That day comes Monday.

Other CWC science faculty members involved in the 1979 included Dr. Lee Roy Johnson and N.R.Hanson, who planned to collaborate on a scientific paper using data collected in Montana. Other student experimenters included Jim James, Kurt Fletcher and Randy Johnson.