WESTPORT, Conn. — In a scene reminiscent of “Close Encounters of The Third Kind,” hundreds craned their heads skyward Monday at Westport’s Rolnick Observatory to get a glimpse of the first visible solar eclipse in more than 25 years.
Alex Kuhn, treasurer of the Westport Astronomical Society, estimated 500 to 600 people converged on the Bayberry Lane site, hoping to get a peek through the permanent telescope and four or five smaller ones set up for the curious.
“This has exceeded all of our possible expectations,” said Kuhn, who said the society had sold out of its 200 water bottles well before the eclipse peaked at 2:45 p.m. “It’s great to see this many people interested in something to do with science.”
Parents brought children, senior citizens set up folding chairs and the line for the 30-year-old telescope snaked down the stairs and into the grass. Some came armed with cereal box eclipse viewers and specialty glasses — another thing the society had no more of by around 2:30 p.m.
“This is like a religious pilgrimage,” one woman hiking up the hill said on her cell phone. “I’m parked a good half-mile away.”
Bebe Swanson of Cos Cob traveled to Westport Monday because she knew of no other observatories open for the event closer to her home.
“Westport is really in the know,” she said.
The scene was similar in Bridgeport, where the Discovery Museum was passing out free eclipse glasses with each paid admission. Budding scientists could view the spectacle from the Adventure Park, though not while actually zip-lining.
The line snaked past the museum, ending at the far side of Discovery Magnet School next door.
And that wasn’t even for a total eclipse: The moon covered a little less than 75 percent of the sun over Fairfield County.
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