Historic eclipse turns day into night across US

The rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central American and the top of South America.

AP
Washington, Publish Date: Aug 23 2017 12:53AM | Updated Date: Aug 23 2017 12:53AM
Historic eclipse turns day into night across USFile Photo

Millions of Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full- blown solar eclipse to sweep the US from coast to coast in nearly a century.

The temperature dropped, birds quieted down, crickets chirped and the stars came out in the middle of the day as the line of darkness raced 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) across the continent in about 90 minutes, bringing forth oohs, aahs, shouts and screams.

It was the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history, with many Americans staking out prime viewing spots and settling onto blankets and lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality as the line of deep shadow created when the sun is completely obscured except for the delicate ring of light known as the corona.

The shadow a corridor just 60 to 70 miles (96 to 113 kilometers) wide came ashore in Oregon and then traveled diagonally across the heartland to South Carolina, with darkness from the totality lasting only about two to three wondrous minutes in any one spot.

The rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central American and the top of South America.

NASA reported 4.4 million people were watching its TV coverage midway through the eclipse, the biggest livestream event in the space agency's history.

"It's like nothing else you will ever see or ever do," said veteran eclipse-watcher Mike O'Leary of San Diego, who set up his camera along with among hundreds of other amateur astronomers gathered in Astronomers were giddy with excitement. A solar eclipse is considered one of the grandest of cosmic spectacles. NASA solar physicist Alex Young said the last time earthlings had a connection like this to the heavens was during man's first flight to the moon, on Apollo 8 in 1968.

Hoping to learn more about the sun's composition and activity, NASA and other scientists watched and analyzed from telescopes on the ground and in orbit, the International Space Station, airplanes and scores of high-altitude balloons beaming back live video.

The Earth, moon and sun line up perfectly every one to three years, briefly turning day into night for a sliver of the planet. But these sights normally are in no man's land, like the vast Pacific or Earth's poles. This is the first eclipse of the social media era to pass through such a heavily populated area.

The moon hasn't thrown this much shade at the U.S. Since 1918, during the country's last coast-to-coast total eclipse. In fact, the US mainland hasn't seen a total solar eclipse since 1979 and even then, only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness.

The path of totality passed through 14 states, entering near Lincoln City, Oregon, at 1:16 p.M. EDT, moving over Casper, Wyoming; Carbondale, Illinois; and Nashville, Tennessee, and then exiting near Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:47 p.M. EDT.

Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois saw the longest stretch of darkness: 2 minutes and 44 seconds. Joe Roth, an amateur photographer, traveled south from the Chicago area to Alto Pass, Illinois, to catch his first total solar eclipse on his 62nd birthday, no less. The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. Will be in 2024. The next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.