Solar eclipse 2017: Curtain of darkness sweeps across America as country witnesses once-in-a-lifetime event

Clark Mindock, Jeremy B White
A total eclipse as seen from Asia: Getty Images

Crowds along the West Coast of the United States were awed by the eclipse of the sun, turning out in huge numbers to observe the celestial phenomenon.

People massed in an arc across the western part of the country to witness the rare event, with large gatherings reported in multiple states that fall under the "path of totality" in which a total eclipse is visible. Many journeyed north to get a better view.

Spectators directly in the path of totality were treated to a rare sight, when the sun and moon align directly and the only visible portions of the sun were the solar flares that shoot out from the sun’s surface, visible only along the edges of the black circle created where the moon obscured the closest star to earth.

The experience differed for those not in the path of the eclipse, but those celestial spectators were still treated to a partial eclipse. As the eclipse’s visibility moved its way from West to East Coast, viewers wearing special glasses also turned their heads to the sky to see the moon block out a good portion of the sun.

The total eclipse has been called a once-in-a-lifetime event, a claim that is true for many. The last time a total eclipse occurred from coast-to-coast in the United States was in 1918. There have been other total eclipses that have passed over parts of the US as well, including a 1979 eclipse that passed over Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. In 1991, Hawaii was in line to see a total eclipse, which was mostly visible to people in Central and South America.

The next total eclipse in the United States will occur in 2024, and will be seen from Texas to Maine. Aside from that, an annular eclipse — where the Sun appears as a ring around the Moon — in 2023, and will be visible from North Carolina to Florida.

Spectators in the line of the eclipse are encouraged to wear protective glasses when watching the eclipse, because even limited direct exposure can damage retinas permanently.

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