They came with children and grandparents. They came with long, funny boxes. They came with bubbling expectation.
And they were not disappointed.
The sun and the moon put on a rare display Sunday in the form of . The sun went from being an orb, to a steadily thinner and thinner crescent, as the moon continued its path across the sky.
Crowds that thronged the Foothill Observatory wrapped along one side of the building, snaked down the footpath, and continued all the way to the parking lot.
"It's pretty cool!" exclaimed 9-year-old Isha Goyal, after someone let her look through filtered glasses.
Indeed, in the way that only a natural phenomenon can inspire, people became generous with their equipment and their knowledge with perfect strangers.
"I could have done this in my own backyard but I thought I would come here and share it," said Michael McEntee of Mountain View who drew lots of spectators with his makeshift projector, using a pair of binoculars mounted backwards on a tripod and focused on the long distance.
Many people were toting their shoeboxes, paper towel tubes, and other through which to view the eclipse's progress. They held up their fingers in criss-cross fashion, casting crescent-shaped shadows of light onto the parking lot.
The observatory grounds became a teeming scene of people peering into odd-shaped boxes and holding up pieces of paper to make simple projectors. People flitted from one to another.
"There are people with a lot of really good pinhole projectors here," said one woman, happily.
Jeremy Peters of Cupertino brought his three children and a long box taped to a larger box. He held it up while people took turns putting their heads inside, or just looking from a distance.
"I've never done this before in my life," he admitted.
McEntee's set-up had people snapping photos often of the changing, crescent shaped sun on the white backdrop of an old plastic bin lid he had propped up.
"I Googled it, and I YouTubed it, he said. ""I knew the basics, so I boned up on what to do."
As the eclipse waned and the sun began to get bigger, there were more things to look at. "Those are sunspots," McEntee said. Others standing around him assented, and pointed.
"Galileo saw those same sunspots, 400 years ago, almost to this day," McEntee said. "He used a similar technique, but he had to think it up himself."
People stayed in line as long as they could, until the sun dropped behind a huge tree, pulling the plug on the celestial show in the observatory.
No matter. Three volunteers from the Peninsula Astronomical Society had brought their own telescopes to the still-sunny parking lot. Lines formed behind them.
"We got emails (from the society), asking if volunteers wanted to set up their own 'scopes " said Kerry Paul of Sunnyvale. Events like these bring in new members who get excited about astronomy.
People like James Brasure, of Belmont, who came with his impressive refractor telescope, is a newer member of the society.
"I've always loved astronomy since I was 15 and built my own telescope, he said, as person after person stepped up to look in the eyepiece. "I studied astrophysics at the University of Arizona. Now I'm a computer programmer."
These next few weeks form a trifecta or sorts. After this annular eclipse comes a lunar eclipse in the wee hours of the night on June 4, then the "Transit of Venus," when Venus crosses in front of the sun. The PAS will open up the observatory then.