Clouds part and crowds scream as total solar eclipse delights US

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DALLAS – Would the total solar eclipse, the last to cross the United States in two decades, live up to expectations?

In a city where history suggested clear skies were likely, forecasts of persistent clouds loomed for days, hours and even minutes before the surprising syzygy.

Perhaps it was the cooling effect of the moon’s shadows, or just luck, but as totality approached, the clusters separated. Conditions became immaculate.

“On a scale of one to 10? 30,” said Mike Alexander, 59, who traveled to Dallas from Fresno, California.

It was perhaps the most visible celestial event ever seen in the country, spreading the darkness of the moon’s shadow across the homes of some 32 million people, including major cities from Dallas to Cleveland and smaller communities like Russellville, Arkansas. , and Littleton, Maine. Millions more flocked to the 115-mile-wide path of totality, as the moon blocked at least half of the sun’s face in most of the rest of the United States.

There was scientific experimentstourist events and religious ceremonies as Americans took in the stunning view of the last coast-to-coast total solar eclipse until 2045.

Total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth once every 18 months, but the chance of seeing one in your hometown is rare. Vita Garza Flores was one of the first to see the eclipse when the moon’s shadow crossed from Mexico to American soil in Eagle Pass, Texas. The 76-year-old traveled from Northern California to view the eclipse in the city where she was born.

As the moon moved slowly between the Earth and the sun, the skies darkened until only a flash of light appeared where the sun had been, an effect known as a diamond ring, as it resembles a sparkling gem on a golden light ring The crowd screamed as Garza Flores grabbed his eclipse glasses and placed them over his sunglasses. “Wow!” he said as he looked up.

The amazement was not limited to lay observers: scientists used the phenomenon to take a closer look at space and the outermost layers of the sun, with the blinding light of its rays out of the way.

In Uvalde, Texas, students from the local high school and Southwest Texas Junior College were among the citizen scientists who used the eclipse to learn more about the sun and its effects on Earth. They captured video of the celestial phenomenon through a telescope for a research effort that aims to reveal the density of the sun’s middle corona and help scientists measure the strength of the solar wind, charged particles that can disrupt electrical grids. and produce auroras when they reach Earth. .

In central America, the eclipse was a phenomenon. As totality descended on Dayton, Ohio, a loud cheer rose from the crowd outside the house where the Wright brothers once conceived of human flight.

“I’m dumbfounded,” said one young man. “This,” said another woman who had been worried about traffic, “was worth it.”

Russellville was one of many humble towns transformed into eclipse destinations, as one of the few places along the path of totality where NASA gathered scientists and live-streamed the progress of the eclipse online. Local tourism officials handed out detailed maps of the city and sold T-shirts that said, “I was excited about the eclipse.”

Carbondale, Illinois, hit the eclipse jackpot, falling in the path of totality for a solar eclipse that crossed the United States on August 17, 2017, and then again for Monday’s eclipse. He gave the city the nickname “America’s Eclipse Crossroads.” A packed stadium on the city’s southern edge erupted in screams as the eclipse began with the appearance of the “diamond ring.” Unlike six and a half years earlier, clouds did not interrupt the show.

“It’s a lot darker than 2017,” said a commentator on NASA’s live stream. “This is much better than 2017.”

The eclipse was the zeitgeist on Monday, so much so that Taylor Swift tied it to the release of her upcoming album and shared a black-and-white video of a typewriter on her Instagram Story around 2 p.m. ET, with lyrics that read: “The crowd goes crazy at your fingertips/Half moonlight/Total eclipse.”

For young Americans, it was a chance to challenge the habit of capturing every event on their phones.

“I feel like I was trying to capture it with my camera, but it didn’t do justice to how beautiful it was with my own eyes,” Katie Kim, a freshman at Case Western Reserve University, said moments after totality. she had ended up in Cleveland.

“Yeah, I filmed the sunset in 360 instead,” said her friend, Flora Kim, another freshman, marveling at how the eclipse created a sunset-like glow in all directions.

For Susan Bingham, Monday’s eclipse was the fulfillment of a promise made for 18 years. In 2006, Bingham was living in Burlington, Vermont, pregnant with twins and on bed rest, when she learned the city would be in the path of totality. She promised to be there.

Much has changed since then: the twins were born, followed by a third child, and the family moved to Massachusetts. But when it got dark on Monday, Bingham, 52, was on a rocky outcrop on the shore of Lake Champlain in Vermont with his twins, who are now a few days shy of their 18th birthday. She cried.

In her heart, she said, this day marked her twins’ transition into adulthood. “Before and after,” she said. “It was beautiful.”

Soon-to-be-born children will be adults the next time a total solar eclipse hits the country.

A total solar eclipse will darken American communities in 2044, but only in parts of Montana and the Dakotas. The country will have to wait another year for the next coast-to-coast phenomenon, a total eclipse that will stretch from California to Florida on August 12, 2045. It will be Saturday.

Hernandez reported from Eagle Pass, Texas. Slater reported from Burlington, Vt. Dance reported from Washington. Brady Dennis in Dayton, Ohio; Juliet Eilperin in Cleveland; and Kyley Schultz in Washington contributed to this report.

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