The first total solar eclipse to sweep across America in 99 years has finally come to an end.
Darkness swept across the US as the eclipse, traveled from coast to coast, ending just before 3pm EDT in South Carolina
The eclipse began in Oregon at just after 9am PDT, and by 10.20am, the sun was completely blocked out except for a halo-like solar corona plunging the area into twilight.
Over the next 90 minutes, the total eclipse traveled through 14 different states until ending in South Carolina. The other 36 states were all treated to a partial solar eclipse, where the moon covers only a part of the sun.
At one point, the International Space Station was clearly visible in front of the eclipsed sun, while a plane was highlighted against the darkened sun, illuminated only by the solar corona.
Millions had turned out to see the natural spectacle, including Donald Trump and the rest of the first family, who watched from the White House’s Truman Balcony, as well as dozen of celebrities including the Kardashian clan, Ellen DeGeneres and Serena Williams.
In Oregon, locals ran out of their homes, with eclipse glasses or homemade contraptions in hand, to watch the moon fully cover the sun.
‘It’s really, really, really, really awesome,’ said 9-year-old Cami Smith as she watched the fully eclipsed sun from a gravel lane near her grandfather’s home at Beverly Beach, Oregon.
‘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 Casper, Wyoming. ‘It can be religious. It makes you feel insignificant, like you’re just a speck in the whole scheme of things.’
The total eclipse of the sun is considered one of the most spell-binding phenomena in nature but it rarely occurs over a wide swath of land, let alone one of the world’s most heavily populated countries at the height of summer.
In terms of audience potential, it is hard to top the United States, with its mobile and affluent population, even though the direct path is mostly over rural areas, towns and small cities. The largest is Nashville, Tennessee, a city of 609,000 residents.
Even so the advent of social media and inexpensive high-tech optics have boosted public awareness, assuring what many U.S. experts predict will be unprecedented viewership for the so-called ‘Great American Eclipse.’
Astronomers were giddy with excitement. A solar eclipse is considered one of the grandest of cosmic spectacles.
With a half hour to go before totality, NASA’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, enjoyed the moon’s ‘first bites out of the sun’ from a plane flying over the Oregon coast and declared it ‘just an incredible view.’
‘I’m about to fight this man for a window seat,’ Lightfoot said, referring to a fellow NASA official.
Citizen scientists also planned to monitor animal and plant behavior as daylight turned into twilight and the temperature dropped. Thousands of people streamed into the Nashville Zoo just to watch the animals’ reaction.
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. (Photos)