Eclipses occur frequently. They are met with anticipation, awe, and wonderment. On Aug. 21, 2017, millions of Americans looked toward the heavens and witnessed a spectacular total solar eclipse.
The cosmic event was visible across the entire country, with varying levels of totality. Watching it was an amazing 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. Whereas others scoured the internet to find alternative methods to safely view the eclipse, they created homemade devices using cereal-type cardboard boxes. Even without using any of these, one could see solar sliver on earth as the image was reflected. The site was surreal.
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 eclipse. Local roads were eerily quiet and vehicles on the highways pulled over and parked along the sides, despite repeated warnings by authorities.
Yet, Twitter was littered with activity, there were thousands of posts and photos. Many news sites encouraged users to watch updates they provided and comment.
NASA set up a website for viewers to experience the full solar eclipse live. The webcasts were recorded for posterity. 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. NASA clarifies these inaccuracies.
Future Cosmic Events
A fact that is not well known is that these events come in pairs. Most often a solar eclipse is followed by one that is lunar.
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.
Partial eclipses occur more 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. Then, two weeks later, on Feb. 15, is a partial solar eclipse with its greatest coverage visible in Chile, Argentina, and the Antarctic.
Eclipses continue to amaze people. Whether they are solar or lunar, full or partial, they are anxiously awaited. To make planning for the next eclipse easier the Time and Date website provides interactive 3D maps, specific times, and dates through 2199.
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