The eclipse, which was branded by NASA as the “Eclipse Across America,” was the first of its kind since 1918 and something we will not see the likes of for decades to come. Passing over the U.S. on Aug. 21, it became a popular topic among those who left their homes, offices and meetings to watch the two-hour-long phenomenon.
Some of those who witnessed the eclipse used specialized glasses made to protect the user’s eyes from possible damage. Several used crafted pinhole projectors to see the shape of the sun through its shadows. Other viewers used non-traditional methods to view the eclipse, such as welding masks or the shadows of leafy trees.
Whether someone saw the sun’s light diminution through glasses or observed the shadows, the eclipse brought forth several discussions on the natural phenomenon and what viewers can learn from it.
The science behind a total eclipse is rather basic. The moon’s orbit travels directly between the earth and the sun, eclipsing the light of the sun and offering spectacular views of its corona, that ring of light that extends from the outer edge of the eclipse.
For some in the scientific community, this eclipse may have been the “astronomical event of the decade.”
“I remember seeing an eclipse as a child,” said Stacy Palen, professor of physics and the director of Weber State University’s Ott Planetarium. “I remember this giant shadow moving across the ground. … It was like watching the Orcs coming out of Mordor. It was terrifying! Even when you know it’s just the shadow of the moon, you see it coming, and there is this deep base brain reaction. This is not something you can logic yourself out of.”
Stacy Palen is the director of the WSU Ott Planetarium. Photo credit: Zachary Williams
“Here in Ogden, we’ll get a 90 percent totality,” Palen said, “but that 10 percent of the sun is still really bright. To get below the eclipse track, beneath the shadow of the moon, is worth doing”.
The path of totality, or the locations which offered optimal views of the total eclipse of the sun, stretched from coast to coast across the continental United States.
With Idaho being an area that witnessed the sun’s total coverage, thousands of eclipse fans from Utah, California, Arizona and Montana migrated to see the event with their own eyes.
Great American Eclipse, a group of scientists that monitored the eclipse’s path, estimated that over 200,000 people made the trek to Idaho solely for seeing the total eclipse.
The event piqued the interest of more than just the scientific community. Local astronomy enthusiast and photographer Brian Dobson said most Americans pay little attention to astronomy, though it affects our lives every day.
“Our eyes are so focused downward,” Dobson said, “that we never take the time to look upward.”
Due to light pollution and other variables, most Americans see very little in the night sky. “It’s really difficult not to notice a spectacular solar eclipse,” Dobson said. “It’s easy to see why ancient cultures revered the eclipse as a Godly event.”
Originally published via the Signpost.