On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse was seen in the United States. According to NASA, this was the first total solar eclipse noticeable in the continental United States in 38 years, and the path of totality reached 14 states.
A partial eclipse, or when the moon covers a fraction of the sun, was seen elsewhere in North America. Regions of Africa, Europe and South America also saw a partial solar eclipse.
The path of totality, where the moon covered the sun entirely, was 70 miles wide and spanned the country from east to west. The first location it hit was Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 9:05 a.m PST, and totality occurred at 10:16 a.m. PST. Within the next hour and a half, it hit Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming. The total eclipse finished near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EST. From that location, the lunar shadow moved out of the country at 4:09 p.m. EST. Its longest time span was in Carbondale, Illinois, where totality occurred for two minutes and 40 seconds.
This phenomenon happened due to the rare lining up of the Earth, moon and sun. A solar eclipse is visible when the moon is in the middle of the Earth and the sun. It is a misconception that solar eclipses should be anticipated every month because of the moon’s orbit because the orbit is described to be about 27 to 29 days long. Yet the tilt of the moon’s orbit is separated from Earth’s orbit around the sun by approximately five degrees. The moon’s width is only around .5 degrees, which means that at times the moon is positioned too high or too low to trigger a solar eclipse. When the sun, moon and Earth align at the “line of nodes,” or the nonexistent margin that symbolizes the meeting of the orbital surface of the moon and Earth, an eclipse takes place.
The moon’s shadow reaches Earth when the line of nodes is pointed toward the sun. When the moon covers the sun, it creates two categories of shadows on Earth. The umbral shadow is characterized as having a small diameter position on Earth. This shadow is when a viewer could see a total eclipse.
The penumbral shadow has a bigger position on Earth when a viewer can see a partial eclipse. The moon does not cover the sun in a penumbral shadow.
Viewers had the chance to see one of four types of solar eclipses depending on their region—total, partial, annual and hybrid. When a total eclipse occurred, the sun’s external atmosphere was seen. Animals altered their behavior, and light level and air temperature plummeted.
When a partial eclipse occurred, a part of the sun’s disc was hidden. In an annular eclipse, the moon is positioned right in the center of the sun’s front. But the moon looks too small to completely cover the sun’s disk. A glowing ring called the “ring of fire” becomes evident around the black disk of the moon. A hybrid eclipse is characterized as a mix of total and annular eclipses—the eclipse starts as one version and ends as another.
In New York City, the partial eclipse started at 1:23 p.m. EDT. At 2:44 p.m., the moon covered up approximately 72 percent of the sun’s exterior as the partial eclipse hit its maximum.
Anna Ho, an intended accounting major, said that she saw the partial eclipse from her house. “I was not aware of the eclipse until I saw information about it in the media. I was really excited when it happened because it was so rare. It was really cool how the sun was in the shape of a crescent. I never saw it like that,” she said.
Later, the tips of the crescent-formed sun were pointed down. The eclipse finished at 4 p.m.
“I was very interested in the eclipse. I saw it with my brother and mother. Just as it happened a cloud came over. But we were lucky because it did not cover the eclipse. It was pretty cool,” said Pablo Durant, a finance major.
The next total eclipse will pass through North America on April 8, 2024. It will reach northwestern Mexico, the United States and southeastern Canada. It will be directly over Dallas and Montreal.
A coast-to-coast solar eclipse will occur on Aug. 12, 2045. It will span northern California to central Florida and totality will last around six minutes.