Awe and Wonder at the Eclipse

  • By Ari Daniel
  • Posted 08.31.17
  • NOVA

Eclipse watchers flocking to the path of totality let out whoops and cheers as the moon covered the sun in the first coast-to-coast total eclipse in nearly 100 years.

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Eclipse watchers cheered as the moon covered the sun in a coast-to-coast total eclipse.

“That was the most extraordinary experience. I was flabbergasted,” said John Llewellyn of Boise, who watched the eclipse in Cascade, Idaho.

“We always assume the sun is going to be shining, and suddenly the sun is gone... I can understand how the ancients thought that it had been eaten by a great space monster.”

Eclipse chasers and amateur star watchers alike converged in cities along the path of totality, a 70-mile wide swath cutting through 14 U.S. states.

Festivals, rooftop parties, weddings, camping trips, and astronomy meet-ups popped up nationwide for what NASA expected to be the most heavily photographed and documented eclipse in modern times.

Llewellyn watched the eclipse in Cascade, with a few hundred people gathered at a viewing event organized by Northwest Nazarene University.

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A team from Northwest Nazerene University use a telescope to project an image of the sun onto a piece of paper inside a cardboard box. Enlarge Photo credit: © Ari Daniel

There was perfect visibility for the celestial event in Cascade.

The suspense mounted during the countdown to totality when the moon would completely cover the sun.   

When it was announced that everyone could take their eclipse glasses off, a cry went up from the crowd as people looked into the sky.

Emotional sky-gazers stood transfixed across the country during the first eclipse to sweep the continent coast-to-coast in nearly a century.

Oregon was the first U.S. state to experience the total eclipse just after 1:15 ET. It lasted for roughly 90 minutes, ending in Charleston, South Carolina.

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NOVA Digital Producer Ari Daniel watches the eclipse with his family in Cascade, Idaho. Enlarge Photo credit: © Phil Braun

“It brings into focus our infinitesimally small place in the universe,” said Sandra Cuneo from Los Angeles. “For just two minutes, you forget perhaps the quotidian life and see for a moment the infinite universe.”

A lifelong dream fulfilled

For one woman, watching Monday’s eclipse fulfilled a lifelong dream.

Kathy Shrout had been waiting for the eclipse for more than 50 years, after learning about it as a 10-year-old girl in Kentucky.

Despite anticipation that’s been building for decades, Shrout said the eclipse exceeded her expectations.

“It was magnificent. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” said Shrout, who watched the eclipse with her family in Sweetwater, Tennessee.

Shrout spotted the so-called “diamond ring” effect, crescent-shaped shadows on the ground, and “Bailey’s beads,” bright spots of light protruding from valleys in the moon.

What struck her the most, however, were the Earth-bound effects of the eclipse: midday darkness, crickets chirping and the awestruck silence of a huge crowd.  

“You could have heard a pin drop, it was so quiet in this crowd of people,” Shrout said. “It was beautiful.”

Now that this eclipse is over, Shrout is marking her calendar for the next U.S. eclipse on April 8, 2024.

“It just makes me want to go see the next one,” Shrout said. “I’ve already got the date memorized.” 

Agence France-Presse contributed to this story.

This story was first published by PRI’s The World.

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