MOSI eclipse event draws thousands in Tampa

The Tampa Bay area may not have been near the path of totality, but eclipse watchers were captivated nonetheless.

click to enlarge Eclipse watchers use their makeshift viewing devices so they could see the rare event. - Terrence Smith
Terrence Smith
Eclipse watchers use their makeshift viewing devices so they could see the rare event.

While Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry is temporarily closed for renovations until November, that didn't stop an estimated 5,000 people to show up to catch a glimpse of Monday's solar eclipse.

MOSI pulled out all the stops for the crowd, providing viewing glasses and specially designed telescopes, along with a live feed from NASA to view the event, which is the first transcontinental total solar eclipse to occur in the U.S. in 99 years. Relatively clear skies and dry weather, along with permission from Hillsborough County Schools to to miss class, for the eclipse brought out an audience that skewed young. The event packed the MOSI campus with its biggest crowd for a viewing since Halley's Comet in 1986.

Anthony Pelaez, MOSI's Director of Innovation, lauded the success of the event and emphasized how events like these illustrate the important role that MOSI and science education have in the city.

“I think that we've proven that people in Tampa are very excited about science events such as the solar eclipse," he said. "MOSI really is the hub for engagement with the public and helping to understand and make teachable moments like this exciting. This is massive. We have thousands of people here. This shows us MOSI's responsibility to the community.”

When MOSI reopens in November, it won't be in its original building, with the entire museum being moved to what was formerly the Kids in Charge wing that was added as an extension. While unconfirmed, it's expected that the museum will eventually move to downtown Tampa as part of a massive overhaul of the Channel District — which may happen as soon as 2022. With the next solar eclipse that will be visible in Florida is slated to happen in 2023, Monday could have been the North Tampa location's last event of such a scale. But while MOSI's future is still being mapped out, Pelaez had no doubt that when it's time to look to the skies the museum will step up.

Whenever there's an opportunity, whenever anything comes about, we'll make sure we're there for [it]," he said.

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