– Total solar eclipse during totality, August 21, 2017, in Antelope Hills, Wyoming (Photo and caption by Allison Repensky).
For many Americans, the Great American Solar Eclipse was legendary – the essence of mystery and wonder. The total solar eclipse’s path stretched across the country, limiting totality to a single pathway across the United States. For those who were in the path of totality, it was a whole other universe.
Few people were given the opportunity to watch this once-in-a-lifetime event. The path of totality was limited to a diagonal line across the United States, spanning seventy miles wide and over two thousand miles long. From Oregon to South Carolina, scientists, students, and families took the trip to totality, bringing their solar glasses and cameras.
A partial solar eclipse is seen by observers outside the path of totality. This is where the moon appears to travel in a straight line. The moon will not cover the entire sun. Depending on where you are, the moon may cover more or less of the sun.
On Monday, August twenty-first, 2017, North America could see the solar eclipse. Within the path of totality, people had the opportunity to see the total solar eclipse. Known as one of nature’s most beautiful sights, the total solar eclipse features the moon crossing the sun’s path, revealing the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere. The corona is a white ring around the sun, visible to the naked eye under certain circumstances. The Latin word for corona is “crown,” which is fitting for a massive celestial being in our solar system.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth. The moon blocks the sun’s light, casting an eerie shadow upon the planet. The moon appears to cover the sun completely, but, in reality, they are thousands of miles apart.
There are myths about the true cause of a solar eclipse. In Japan, people thought a celestial dragon had eaten the sun. In Vietnam, a giant frog devoured the sun, leaving the world in complete darkness. Korean folklore suggests that mythical dogs were in the sky, plotting to steal the sun. The ancient Greeks believed the solar eclipse meant that the gods were angry. It stood as a symbol of destruction and disaster soon to come.
The real reason that total solar eclipses happen is simple. In rare instances, the moon moves between the sun and Earth during a new moon. The darkest part of the moon, the umbra, casts a dark shadow upon Earth. The sun, Earth, and the moon need to be in a direct line in for this to happen, resulting in the form of a solar eclipse. The sun appears to be blocked by the moon, but it is merely a shadow.
The 2017 Great American Solar Eclipse was observed from Oregon to South Carolina, even from Canada to Mexico. Observers from all over the world visited the United States to witness the total solar eclipse, the supernatural event. People drove hundreds of miles and spent thousands of dollars on hotel rooms and campsites.
For towns stretching from the west coast of Oregon to the east coast of South Carolina, it’s also shaping up to be one of their most significant tourism events ever. Experts estimated that over seven million people would visit towns in the path of totality, potentially causing traffic jams and shortages of gas. About 12 million Americans live in the path of totality, but an estimated two hundred million more could see ninety percent or less of the total solar eclipse.
Most of the cities in the path are not metropolitan areas, nor do they have a large population. The vast, rolling landscape of grass and small homes prove to be the best viewing space for the eclipse, resulting in a migration of people from urban cities to rural towns.
“Solar eclipse boom towns” were overwhelmed by the rush of people attracted by the eclipse. Rural villages were out of gas; grocery stores were out of stock. Visitors from other states brought extra fuel, fearing that most cities would be low on gas. Most resources, including ATMs, wifi, water, and food, had been drained by the constant surge of citizens.
About thirty miles away from Casper, I arrived in Antelope Hills, parked on an exit. I sat in the back of the pickup truck, documenting and observing the event. The eclipse happened over a span of over an hour. Totality only lasted for about a minute.
In Antelope Hills, the moon casts an otherworldly shadow on the mountains, turning the bright landscape into a darker one. The light blue sky became a dark gray. You could see the stars above, glittering in the darkening sky. Everyone “oohed and ahhed” as the sun disappeared behind the silver moon. A sliver of the sun was the only thing seen.
Being in totality creates an eerie feeling as if something were wrong with the world. Shadows became blurry and faded as the moon continued to cover the sun. The temperature drops and animals retreat to their dens. The sun becomes black. A white “halo” surrounds it, appearing otherworldly and heavenly. The white light forms a ring around the sun and moon.
Overall, the Great American Solar Eclipse was the stuff of legend; people came from all over the world to observe nature’s magnificent phenomenon. States were crowded with people from all over; towns were filled to the brim with crowds from Oregon to South Carolina. The total solar eclipse was talked about all over the country. It certainly was an event to remember.
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