Total eclipse wins America's heart

Eclipse-viewing in New York. Americans were gripped by the Sun vanishing behind the Moon in an unusual coast-to-coast event. US President Donald Trump looking up at the eclipse without protection, while First Lady Melania wears special glasses at the
A composite image of the total solar eclipse seen in Madras, Oregon. More than 100,000 people gathered in Madras - a town with a normal population of 7,000 - for what experts described as perfect viewing conditions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Eclipse-viewing in New York. Americans were gripped by the Sun vanishing behind the Moon in an unusual coast-to-coast event. US President Donald Trump looking up at the eclipse without protection, while First Lady Melania wears special glasses at the
US President Donald Trump looking up at the eclipse without protection, while First Lady Melania wears special glasses at the White House.PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST
Eclipse-viewing in New York. Americans were gripped by the Sun vanishing behind the Moon in an unusual coast-to-coast event. US President Donald Trump looking up at the eclipse without protection, while First Lady Melania wears special glasses at the
Eclipse-viewing in New York. Americans were gripped by the Sun vanishing behind the Moon in an unusual coast-to-coast event. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rare phenomenon sweeps across country after 99 years

CHARLESTON (South Carolina) • Millions of Americans stood transfixed as the country's first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years zoomed across the country, dazzling many but disappointing some whose view was obscured by clouds.

For about 90 minutes on Monday, the shadow of the Moon raced over mountains, plains and forests at twice the speed of sound, from the coast of Oregon to the Atlantic wetlands of South Carolina.

Millions of diehard eclipse-chasers and amateur star-watchers converged in cities along the path of totality, a 113km-wide swathe cutting through 14 states.

Some watchers fashioned their own pinhole projectors out of cardboard and tape. Others wore special, dark solar eclipse glasses.


A composite image of the total solar eclipse seen from the Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience on Monday in Madras, Oregon. Scientists plan to study the eclipse to learn more about the super-hot corona. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

But US President Donald Trump ignored expert advice and looked up at the partial solar eclipse with naked eyes. He appeared on a White House balcony with his son Barron, daughter Ivanka and wife Melania.

INDESCRIBABLE FEELING

Wow. I feel different. I can't describe how. But I do feel different.

MS BETH DELLOW, on her experience.

As an aide shouted, "Don't look", he glanced skywards without protection. Eventually, he covered his eyes. But after some 90 seconds, the glasses came off and he stole another glance skywards.

Festivals, rooftop parties, weddings, camping trips and astronomy meet-ups were held nationwide for probably the most heavily photographed and documented eclipse in modern times.

The blackest part of the shadow, known as totality because the Moon blocks all the Sun's light from the Earth, began over Lincoln Beach, Oregon.

Just inland, more than 100,000 people gathered at Madras, Oregon - a town with a normal population of 7,000 - for what experts described as perfect viewing conditions.

But in Fairfax City, Virginia, at 2.36pm local time, minutes before peak eclipse, dark clouds rolled over the sun like a curtain. Mr Charlie Maguire had just stopped at a store to get a pair of eclipse glasses. "I don't know if I can assess how disappointed I am," he said.

ON A DIFFERENT PLANE

It was just awesome... partially spiritual.

MR DAVE LICHTENAUER, a retired electrical engineer.

The moment was saved near Woodbridge, Virginia, when a bright pink, green and blue rainbow poured out from a cloud opening.

Eclipse-watchers often describe being overcome as the sky goes black, birds return to their nests and the air chills.

"Wow," said Ms Beth Dellow, of Baltimore. "I feel different. I can't describe how. But I do feel different."

"It was just awesome... partially spiritual," said Mr Dave Lichtenauer, a retired electrical engineer.

For many, the sound of the event was Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler's hit song Total Eclipse Of The Heart. She sang a two-minute, 40-second version - that is how long the actual eclipse lasted - live from a Caribbean cruise ship sailing through the path of totality. The 66-year-old singer soared to the top spot on the iTunes chart with her 1983 hit song, according to TMZ.

Scientists plan to study the eclipse to learn more about the super-hot corona, or outer atmosphere of the Sun.

WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Total eclipse wins America's heart'. Print Edition | Subscribe