Americans enthralled by eclipse all across United States | SierraSun.com

Americans enthralled by eclipse all across United States

Staff Report
editor@theunion.com

People traveling to the “path of totality” across the country were treated to a total solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, including The Union Multimedia Reporter Elias Funez, who captured images from Central Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne.

Closer to home, local photographer Tim O’Brien headed over to Alta, near the American River Canyon, to chronicle the partial eclipse as it was seen in the region. And students at schools all across western Nevada County, such as those at Scotten Elementary in Grass Valley, took turns taking in the rare moment.

Millions of Americans gazed in wonder at the cosmic spectacle, with the best seats along the so-called path of totality that raced 2,600 miles across the continent from Oregon to South Carolina.

According to the Associated Press, it took 90 minutes for the shadow of the moon to travel across the country. Along that path, the moon blotted out the midday sun for about two wondrous minutes at any one place, eliciting oohs, aahs, whoops and shouts from people gathered in stadiums, parks and backyards.

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.

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.

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The last coast-to-coast total eclipse in the U.S. was in 1918, when Woodrow Wilson was president. The last total solar eclipse in the U.S. was in 1979, but only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness.

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

ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY

The stars came out in the middle of the day, zoo animals ran in agitated circles, crickets chirped, birds fell silent and a chilly darkness settled upon the land Monday as the U.S. witnessed its first full-blown, coast-to-coast solar eclipse since World War I.

“It was a very primal experience,” Julie Vigeland, of Portland, Oregon, said after she was moved to tears by the sight of the sun reduced to a silvery ring of light in Salem.

It took 90 minutes for the shadow of the moon to travel across the country. Along that path, the moon blotted out the midday sun for about two wondrous minutes at any one place, eliciting oohs, aahs, whoops and shouts from people gathered in stadiums, parks and backyards.

Passengers aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean watched it unfold as Bonnie Tyler sang her 1983 hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

The path of totality, where the sun was 100 percent obscured by the moon, was just 60 to 70 miles wide. But the rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central America and the upper reaches of South America.

Skies were clear along most of the route, to the relief of those who feared cloud cover would spoil the moment.

“Oh, God, oh, that was amazing,” said Joe Dellinger, a Houston man who set up a telescope on the Capitol lawn in Jefferson City, Missouri. “That was better than any photo.”

For the youngest observers, it seemed like magic.

“It’s really, really, really, really awesome,” said 9-year-old Cami Smith as she gazed at the fully eclipsed sun in Beverly Beach, Oregon.

“It can be religious. It makes you feel insignificant, like you’re just a speck in the whole scheme of things,” said veteran eclipse-watcher Mike O’Leary of San Diego, who set up his camera along with among hundreds of other amateur astronomers in Casper, Wyoming.

John Hays drove up from Bishop, California, for the total eclipse in Salem, Oregon, and said the experience will stay with him forever.

“That silvery ring is so hypnotic and mesmerizing, it does remind you of wizardry or like magic,” he said.

More than one parent was amazed to see teenagers actually look up from their cellphones.

Patrick Schueck, a construction company president from Little Rock, Arkansas, brought his 10-year-old twin daughters Ava and Hayden to Bald Knob Cross of Peace in Alto Pass, Illinois, a more than 100-foot cross atop a mountain. Schueck said at first his girls weren’t very interested in the eclipse. One sat looking at her iPhone.

“Quickly that changed,” he said. “It went from them being aloof to being in total amazement.” Schueck called it a chance to “do something with my daughters that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”

Astronomers, too, were giddy with excitement.

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. The first, famous Earthrise photo came from that mission and, like this eclipse, showed us “we are part of something bigger.”

NASA’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, watched with delight from a plane flying over the Oregon coast and joked about the space-agency official next to him, “I’m about to fight this man for a window seat.”

In Charleston, South Carolina, the eclipse’s last stop in the U.S., college junior Allie Stern, 20, said: “It was amazing. It looked like a banana peel, like a glowing banana peel which is kind of hard to describe and imagine but it was super cool.”

After the celestial spectacle, eclipse-watchers heading home in Tennessee spent hours stuck in traffic jams.

“I knew it was going to be leaving that would be the problem,” said Peggy Hutchinson, who drove down from Toledo, Ohio, with her family and was only able to move 18 miles in 90 minutes. “Everyone had hours to get here but everybody is going home at the same time.”