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Skygazers Across Tri-State Turn Out For Partial Solar Eclipse

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- While the Tri-State was not in the 70-mile "path of totality" for Monday's solar eclipse, skygazers across our area still looked skyward with special glasses for a partial eclipse.

The total eclipse cast a shadow that will race through 14 states, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. In the Tri-State area, the moon blocked out about 70 percent of the sun.

Locally, the eclipse began at 1:23 p.m. and ended at 4 p.m. with the peak of darkness at 2:44 p.m.

EXTRAS: Planning & Tracking | Viewing Parties Around NYC | How It Works | #CBSeclipse

The partial eclipse was enough to get many excited, and many locations hosted viewing parties for the cosmic event.

"We're more interested in what's going to happen. Is it really going to become dark? Are the crickets coming out? Are the bird songs going to change? Everyone's trying to figure out if this hype is going to live up to its expectations," said Mike, who had planned to leave work early so he can watch the eclipse with his children in Oakland, New Jersey.

The Sheep Meadow in Central Park was a popular eclipse viewing site. CBS2's Lonnie Quinn was there Monday afternoon.

Those with proper viewing glasses saw what looked like the top crescent section of the moon – or an orange. There was some minor cloud coverage, but the spectacle was spectacular.

"It was just, you know, the sun and the sky with a black disc in front of it – it was beautiful," one man said.

"The sun was orange and the moon became black looking at it – so it was looks cool," a girl said.

"It looked like just a slice of the sun was left with this big, big bowl covering over the rest of it," a man said.

"It looked like a small little crescent," another man said. "It was amazing though - very orange."

The CBS2 Mobile Weather Lab became the location for an impromptu viewing party. CBS2's camera was outfitted with a special lens, and people passing by were given a once-in-a-lifetime view.

Antwan Scott helps run the science programs at Pioneer Works, a cultural center dedicated to science education in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where hundreds gathered in the garden of the old ironworks factory on the New York Harbor.

"We'll have telescopes set up in various point of our garden space. we'll have a section where we will be making our solar filters and pinhole cameras," Scott said.

The Amateur Astronomers Association of New York was on hand to help explain the science of the solar eclipse.

"It has been something that has been feared to revered and now we're in a place where we just want to understand its process a bit more and figure out exactly what it is," Scott said.

Busy New Yorkers stopped and stared up at the sun, though thankfully, most took precautions, CBS2's Brian Conybeare reported.

"Definitely not looking right at the sun, but with these glasses, it looks great," said Ira Moulon of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

"I'm just looking at a reflection of the sun through a pinhole in the tinfoil, and it worked – amazing," said Scott Starr of Harlem.

At the Battery, New Yorkers and tourists alike poured into the Esplanade to watch the eclipse as its greatest hour of intensity approached.

Ian McAndrew took a break from trading bonds to put on a pair of cardboard eclipse glasses, which he and his girlfriend shared with others – including WCBS 880's Rich Lamb.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the heavens at work, basically," McAndrew said. "I've been excited for this for weeks and weeks and, yeah, I wanted to be a part of it."

McAndrew said he was pleased with the experience

"It has exceeded my expectations, and I'm especially happy to see all these people down here who are doing the same," he said.

McAndrew's girlfriend, Sarah Burman, said she hopes the eclipse brings more respect to science and scientists.

A viewing party was also held at Iona College in New Rochelle.

As WCBS 880's John Metaxas reported, students at the college were treated to a lawn party and a science lesson, as professor Robert Novak brought his telescope and special sunglasses to the quad to his students could take a direct look.

As the eclipse progressed, their imaginations took over.

"It looks like a Cheeto," a student said, "a hot Cheeto, floating in the sky."

Novak said through his telescope, the sun seemed to be more like the moon.

"Some of the people looking through the telescope they say that the sun looks like the crescent moon, which is true because usually we see the shadow of the earth on the moon," Novak said, "but what we are seeing is the moon in front of the sun, so you get a crescent. You don't get the full sun."

It was far from a typical Monday in Jersey City, where a long line of people were seen waiting to get into Liberty State Park and the Liberty Science Center, which held an eclipse viewing event.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, the Great American Eclipse at Liberty Science Center," said President and CEO Paul Hoffman. "We expect at least 5,000 people, maybe 7,000."

Many said braving the traffic to get to the viewing event was worth it – though not all.

"It took forever. We spent at least an hour and a half on the Turnpike just coming down the exit," one woman said.

"I just sat in traffic for a good 40 minutes doing this whole loop back here and finally gave up," a man said.

Throughout the Tri-State Area, people changed their routines -- even at the Jersey Shore. The beach was packed in Asbury Park, but some sunbathers came for more than just a tan.

"We're here for the day to just hang out and watch the eclipse," one Morristown man told CBS2's Meg Baker.

The man and his wife made their own eclipse viewfinder, going old-school. They had a sheet of paper with a hole in it.

"I have a little hole -- it's the cheap way of doing it," he said. "I'm old and we've done this for years."

Others also found creative ways to see the sun safely. Adam Frezzo and his family came from Bayonne with beach chairs and a large X-ray paper.

Gavin Lebright got an idea from his dead, involving a welding shield.

Lauren Grandal came prepared with the real deal – solar glasses.

"I said I wouldn't look up without them," she said. "I actually looked up with my sunglasses and already got spots."

Art teacher Colleen Pyott was jubilant as she brought numerous tools, including protective eyeglasses and a filter-fit camera. And Baker herself had on dark protective glasses, as well as a special iPhone filter to protect the lens.

When it happened, people were awestruck.

"I just looked up and it looks like someone took a bite of the sun," said a boy named Shakin, of Asbury Park.

"I just think it's nature. It's the environment," Pyott added. "It's a phenomenon that we may not be able to see again."

Earlier in the day, protective glasses proved hard to find. At a camera store in Fairfield, New Jersey, the people first through the door arrived before 6 a.m. Monday, paying $25 per pair.

"Amazon was supposed to deliver on Saturday and said they couldn't deliver 'til Tuesday," said Warren resident Jane Cerewinski.

"We pulled some strings to get them in," said store owner Alexander Sweetwood. "We adjust the price based on what we pay and the last couple of shipments, we paid a lot for."

The U.S. mainland hasn't seen a total solar eclipse since 1979 — and even then, only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness. On Monday, Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois saw the longest stretch of darkness: 2 minutes and 44 seconds.

The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. will be in 2024. The next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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