News & Events

UMPI marks total eclipse with “Solar-bration”

The University of Maine at Presque Isle will mark the upcoming total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, with a “Solar-bration”. From 2-4:30 p.m. in the parking areas between Gentile Hall and Folsom-Pullen Hall, all are invited to welcome and witness the total solar eclipse, complete with food, music, activities, and fun. Festivities will include an indoor viewing option in the Gauvin Family Center for Cultural Arts, located in Wieden Hall, for those who want to keep up with the NASA livestream coverage or need a back-up plan in the event of inclement weather.

As one of Presque Isle’s 5 “Star Parks,” UMPI will be a major gathering site for viewing the eclipse. Star Parks promise good parking, restrooms, and trash receptacles, and steer vehicles away from the back roads, where mud, ice, traffic safety, and trespassing can be unexpected hurdles to enjoying the show.

“UMPI is honored to be able to serve as one of our city’s Star Parks and to welcome the community and visitors from afar to our campus for a celestial event we’ll remember the rest of our lives,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “This is just one of the ways that we’re embracing the day and marking what may be a once-in-a-lifetime event for some.”

In addition to the Solar-bration, on the morning of the eclipse at 10 a.m., UMPI plans to unveil its 23-foot-tall, three-dimensional sun model as the newest addition to its Maine Solar System Model, which is the largest scale model of the solar system in the western hemisphere. Designed as an approximate 1/8th subsection of the sun, based on the model’s scale, this 3-D sun will be located in front of Preble Hall on the UMPI campus. All are invited to attend this special event.

Visitors are welcome to view the new 3-D sun, as well as the Now and then art installation located nearby, when they attend the afternoon’s festivities. The outdoor sculpture in front of South Hall and two more located on Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians land in Houlton are part of an art installation series that stretches from Texas to Maine along the 2024 solar eclipse’s “path of totality.” As artist and series creator Henry Dean noted, these sculptures stand as cosmic markers, “proclaiming the cycle of the seasons, honoring place, witnessing the rising and setting of the Sun, and the circling of the Moon.” For more details about this art installation series, check out @nowandtheneclipse24 on social media.

Most of the afternoon’s action, however, will take place in the outdoor area surrounded by Gentile, Folsom-Pullen, and Wieden halls. Parking will be available in the Gentile and North parking lots, and parking attendants will be on hand to direct traffic. Student clubs, from SOSW to PE Majors, and local nonprofit organizations like the Central Aroostook Association will have tables set up for visitors to enjoy concessions, games, and other activities, such as corn hole, face painting, and making UV bead bracelets. Several groups will also have solar eclipse glasses for sale. The Student Activities Office popcorn machine and cotton candy machine will also be on site, churning out sweet and salty snacks. Aroostook Sky, featuring UMPI Biology faculty member Dr. Larry Feinstein, will provide music. If the weather allows for it, all are encouraged to take part in a transitory community art project: a collaborative giant chalk drawing of the sun where visitors can make a wish, set an intention, or leave kind words.

In Houlton, UMPI’s Houlton Higher Education Center will offer free parking on April 8. Inside, in addition to its regular business, the Center will host a portion of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art’s exhibit, In the Fullness of Time by artist Abigail DeVille. The full exhibition taking place in Brunswick June 28 through November 10 has a Maine-based oral history component and takes visitors on a journey from the ancient past through local histories to an imagined future. One sculpture in the exhibition, “Lunar Capsule,” will be on site at the Houlton Center from April 3-10. Visitors are welcome to view the sculpture and record their stories about life in Maine or their eclipse experience. DeVille will weave a sampling of the stories shared in an audio installation during the upcoming Brunswick show.

The eclipse is expected to begin around 2:15 p.m. and last for about 2 hours. In recognition of this singular celestial event, as well as the challenging logistics people may experience as they prepare for viewing, live courses at UMPI will be canceled on April 8, from 2-5 p.m. The total eclipse itself is estimated to get underway around 3:30 p.m. and bring 3 minutes of total darkness. At UMPI, crews will turn off the parking lot lights during totality so light pollution doesn’t impact people’s viewing experience.

All are encouraged to join in UMPI’s Solar-bration event and celebrate a sight that won’t be seen again in the U.S. for many years to come. According to information shared by the City of Presque Isle, the last total solar eclipse to occur in the state of Maine was on July 20, 1963 and passed through the Ellsworth and Bar Harbor areas. The next total solar eclipse visible from the United States will be on August 23, 2044; it will be viewable from Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

For more information about UMPI’s Solar-bration, email umpi@maine.edu. The hashtag for this event is #maineeclipse.