Millions of Americans took time to look toward the heavens and spy the spectacular total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017.
The cosmic event was visible across the entire country, with varying levels of totality. Watching it was an awe inspiring moment that people wanted to share with one another. They celebrated with eclipse-watching parties and some traveled hundreds of miles to be in locations where the moon completely blocked out the sun.
Campgrounds and hotel rooms were fully booked well ahead of time. Retail outlets sold out of eclipse-safe viewing glasses weeks before the cosmic event. There were some reports of fraudulent glasses, which were accompanied by warnings of retinopathy.
Not all was lost, people generously shared their safety glasses and others created homemade tools using cereal-type cardboard boxes. The pin-hole method was the cheapest alternative available. Even without using any of these, objects on the earth reflected the sliver of the sun everywhere.
Watching the moon block out the sun was spectacular. In Portland, Oregon the partial eclipse began at 9:06 a.m. PT. At 10:19, 99.36 percent of the sun was covered. It was amazing to see the sky darken as though it were dusk and the street lights come on. By 11:38 a.m. it was over.
For the most part, the Northwest came to a halt. The businesses that did not close encouraged their employees to go outside and enjoy the cosmic event. Local roads were eerily quiet and vehicles on the highways pulled over and parked along the sides, even after repeated warnings were released by authorities.
Yet, Twitter was littered with posts and photos, many news sites encouraged users to watch updates and comment.
NASA set up a website for viewers to experience the full solar eclipse live. The webcasts were recorded and are now available for anyone to view. Also on the site, are myths, historical coincidences, and other tidbits of interesting information for perusal.
For example, one false claim states that a pregnant woman should not view an eclipse. They contend that doing so would cause harm to her unborn child due to the high levels of radiation emitted. Another interesting myth declares that all food produced during a cosmic event would be ruined from radiation contamination.
Future Cosmic Events
The next total solar eclipse will take place on July 2, 2019, and will be visible in the lowest peninsula of North America, and most of South America. Cities in Chile and Argentia will experience the totality.
Seventeen months later, another occurs on Dec. 14, 2020. The cosmic event will be visible in South America and southwest Africa. The totality path will sweep across Rio Negra, Argentina and end off the coast of Namibia and South Africa.
However, partial eclipses occur frequently. In fact, the next is a lunar event on Jan. 31, 2018 and will be visible in North America and a large portion of the globe. Two weeks later, on Feb. 15, is a partial solar eclipse with its greatest coverage visible in Chile, Argentina, and the Antarctic.
For a complete list of eclipses between 1900 and 2199, the Time and Date website provides interactive 3D maps, times, and dates.
By Cathy Milne
NASA Total Eclipse: Eclipse 101; Webcast Recording
Time and Date: Solar and Lunar Eclipses Worldwide – Next 10 Years; What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
All Images Courtesy of Cathy Milne