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First total eclipse in 99 years enthrals US

Updated August 22, 2017
The moon blots out the sun in a solar eclipse viewed from Depoe Bay in the United Stated on Monday.—Reuters
The moon blots out the sun in a solar eclipse viewed from Depoe Bay in the United Stated on Monday.—Reuters

SHERIDAN (US): Millions of Americans looked skyward in awe through protective glasses, telescopes and cameras on Monday as the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in a century marched from the US Pacific northwest to the Atlantic seaboard.

After weeks of anticipation, onlookers from Oregon to South Carolina whooped and cheered as the moon blotted out the sun, plunging a narrow band of the United States into near darkness and colder temperatures for two minutes at a time.

Even President Donald Trump stepped out of the White House to see the eclipse.

No area in the US had seen a total solar eclipse since 1979, while the last coast-to-coast total eclipse took place in 1918.

The rare cosmic event was expected to draw one of the largest audiences in history, including those watching through broadcast and social media.

Over 110km-wide path of darkness carved

Some 12 million people live in the 113km-wide and 4,000km-long zone where the total eclipse appeared, while hordes of others travelled to spots along the route.

The eclipse first reached “totality” — the shadow cast when the sun is completely blocked by the moon — in Oregon at 1715GMT and began spreading eastward.

“It just kind of tickled you all over — it was wonderful — and I wish I could do it again,” said Stormy Shreves, 57, who lives in Depoe Bay. “But I won’t see something like that ever again, so I’m really glad I took the day off work so I could experience it.” The phenomenon took its final bow at 1849GMT near Charleston, South Carolina, where eclipse gazers had gathered atop the harbour’s sea wall.

A number of towns within the eclipse’s path set up public events. At the Southern Illinois University campus in Carbondale, the 15,000-seat football stadium was sold out for Monday.

Other people in the eclipse zone hosted their own private viewing parties. At a mountain cabin in the woods in Murphy, North Carolina, the air grew cool as the moon slowly chipped away at the sun before covering it completely, leaving only a surrounding halo of light.

“That was the most beautiful thing. I could die happy now. I won’t, but I could,” said Samantha Gray, 20, an incoming graduate student at University of Chicago. “Anybody want to go on vacation with me in April 2024?”

Another total solar eclipse will cut from Mexico across the southeast and northeast US on April 8, 2024.

For millions of others outside the zone of totality, a partial eclipse appeared throughout North America, a spectacle that attracted its own crowds in cities like New York.

In Washington, President Trump was photographed on a White House balcony squinting at the sun without protective eyewear, as an aide below shouted: “Don’t look!”

Looking at the sun during a partial eclipse can cause severe eye damage.

President Trump, first lady Melania and their son Barron then donned protective glasses.

Cartographer Michael Zeiler estimated that up to 7.4 million people travelled to the zone to observe the total eclipse taking place in the peak vacation month.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2017