Total solar eclipse captivates America – as it happened

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Total solar eclipse captivates America – as it happened” was written by Adam Gabbatt in New York, for theguardian.com on Monday 21st August 2017 20.52 UTC

Until next time

Well that was fun.

We saw the moon totally eclipse the sun. We saw people observe it. We saw darkness briefly reign.

We saw the president defy the advice of scientists and stare straight at the sun. We heard stories of animals going berserk. We listened to Bonnie Tyler doing karaoke.

All in all it proved to be a very nice distraction from Everything Else.

Thanks for reading, we hope you had fun, and we’ll see everyone in 2024. Hopefully.

Updated

Total murder of the heart

Earlier today – pre-eclipse – we brought you news that Bonnie Tyler would be performing her hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart” during the total eclipse of the sun.

It’s… not the best rendition I’ve ever heard.

Spectators look skyward during a partial eclipse of the sun at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York.
Spectators look skyward during a partial eclipse of the sun at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York.
Photograph: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Alex Gamarra and Jessica Gamarra (L-R) view the solar eclipse at The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Florida.
Alex Gamarra and Jessica Gamarra (L-R) view the solar eclipse at The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Florida.
Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
U.S. Navy sailors Soloman Rucker (Front) and Peyton Warner check the position of the sun on the flight deck of the Naval museum ship U.S.S. Yorktown during the Great American Eclipse in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
U.S. Navy sailors Soloman Rucker (Front) and Peyton Warner check the position of the sun on the flight deck of the Naval museum ship U.S.S. Yorktown during the Great American Eclipse in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Photograph: Randall Hill/Reuters

Updated

Are you blind now?

My colleagues have published a handy guide on how to tell if your vision has been permanently damaged from the eclipse.

The view from the zoo

This is from Kathleen Murray Harris, in Columbia, South Carolina. The Palmetto State was the last to experience a total eclipse, at around 2.40pm.

The giraffes started running toward the elephants; the flamingos began to fly away; the lorikeets began to get eerily quiet. A peak capacity crowd of 8,800 people gathered at the Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens to watch the eclipse—and to bear witness and record its effect on the zoo’s animals.

As the sky began to darken and turn a luminescent shade of gray, about five minutes before totality at 2:41 pm, the crowd began to get just as excited as the animals. “It’s happening…oh my,” screamed a group of students from Heritage Academy Middle School in Augusta, GA.

They traveled with their teacher, Larry Martin, to Columbia since it was “the best place to watch” but some students admitted they were more excited to go to the zoo. That quickly changed once the sky turned dark. “The giraffes, the giraffes…look at the giraffes,” they screamed in glee. Charlotte, NC resident Matt Dowell was also awestruck.

“I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t that excited about the eclipse, but that was awesome,” he said.

A giraffe
A giraffe.
Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Zoo officials had been planning for this event for 6 months and didn’t know what to expect—in terms of the crowds and animal behavior. Columbia resident and zoo representative Susan O’Cain said that Columbia had received a lot of attention and the planning was a little overwhelming at times.

“I’m exhausted, but I thrive off this. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Adam Hartstone-Rose, the Zoo’s adjunct scientist and professor of cell biology and anatomy at USC Medical School, was running from exhibit to exhibit to witness the animal activity. He was euphoric about the response and said the Chinese fortune cookie he received this week proved true: “Opportunity awaits you next Monday.”

The giraffes weren’t the only animal to act strangely.

On Saturday, Dan the Komodo Dragon did not move at all. On Sunday and Monday, he moved only two or three feet.

Komodo dragon
This is not Dan, but it is a Komodo Dragon.
Photograph: Will Burrard-Lucas / Barcroft Me

At the exact moment of totality: “He ran across his exhibit toward his enclosure. He’s never done this before,” said Adam Hartstone-Rose, the Zoo’s adjunct scientist and professor of cell biology and anatomy at USC Medical School.

Within a few minutes of the sun coming back, all the animals seemed to go back to normal.

Updated

‘I could have looked at that for another 20 minutes!’

Here’s the Guardian’s story of the eclipse, from our reporters around the country:

After weeks of anticipation, the sight of the moon’s silhouette passing directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but a halo-like solar corona and causing a precipitous drop in temperature, drew whoops and cheers from onlookers gathered in Madras, Oregon.

“First contact!” someone yelled. Horns honked. Eclipse glasses were popped on to faces, all of which turned eastward to the sun.

As the sky grew dark, around 10.16am, the temperature started to drop and eclipse viewers started to shout and cheer. The most common exclamation was: “Oh my God!” A ring of light glimmered around the black moon – the long-awaited corona, finally safe to view with the naked eye.

People watch the eclipse in Madras, Oregon.
People watch the solar eclipse during the Lowell Observatory Solar Eclipse Experience at Madras High School in Madras, Oregon.
Photograph: Jason Redmond/Reuters

Light returned quickly. “Come back, moon!” someone yelled. As onlookers exhaled and shook the tension out of their bodies, someone said: “I could have looked at that for another 20 minutes!”

As quickly as it came, the eclipse receded, as the umbra – the location of the total shadow – bolted across the continent at an average speed of 1,700 miles per hour. When all is said and done the “totality” will have engulfed a strip of the country occupied by 12.2 million people, joined temporarily by millions more who traveled to the 70-mile-wide eclipse path for the spectacle.

In Madras, Keeman Wong had been waiting 15 years for the moment. He first bought a solar filter as a middle schooler in Hong Kong in the 1960s, to protect his eyes during a partial eclipse. For the past 15 years, Wong, who now lives in Los Angeles, has attempted to witness a total solar eclipse – in Zimbabwe, Easter Island and China – but each attempt was foiled by weather, travel snags or state department warnings against travel to dangerous areas. He was entranced by how eclipse viewers spoke about their experiences.

“They describe it as life-changing,” he said.

This time, he let nothing get in his way. He even packed the small rectangular filter that he’d bought five decades ago.

“I got here early because I said, ‘if there’s an accident on the road, an earthquake… I’m going to be there’,” he said. “It’s worth everything.”

For Wong, the most spectacular moment was the end of the total eclipse. “I’m not religious but I think it’s something very like when God says, ‘let there be light’,” he said.

Updated

The International Space Station caused quite a stir today when it cruised past the sun, mid-eclipse.

The ISS orbits the earth 15.54 times a day, travelling at 17,200mph, I just found out.

Staff warn Trump not to look directly at sun

Here’s a report from the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs, who is on duty as the White House pool reporter today. It seems President Trump had to be cautioned against looking at the sun.

At 2.38pm, the President, the First Lady and Barron Trump walked onto the Blue Room Balcony. The President waved and gestured at the crowd and occasionally made inaudible comments. When one reporter asked him “How’s the view?” the President responded with a thumbs up gesture.

At approximately 2.39pm, the President initially gesticulated to the crowd below and pointed at the sky. As he did so, one of the White House aides standing beneath the Blue Room Balcony shouted “don’t look.”

At approximately 2.41pm, almost at the eclipse’s apex, the President put on glasses and stood next to the First Lady observing the eclipse for approximately 90 seconds. Barron Trump joined them briefly as well.

At 2.45pm, the President, the First Lady and Barron Trump walked back into the White House. They were followed shortly thereafter by the remaining dignitaries on the balcony.

This tweet appears to capture the moment Ben describes.

Updated

Totality ends over America

At 2.48pm local time in Charleston, South Carolina, the path of totality moved off the coast into the sea – and now America must wait another seven years for a total eclipse. A partial solar eclipse will remain until about 4.10pm.

Guests watch the final moments before the total eclipse at the football stadium at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.
Guests watch the final moments before the total eclipse at the football stadium at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.
Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters
Susan Boll, of Carlisle, Iowa, reacts as she puts her glasses on during an eclipse watch party in Des Moines, Iowa.
Susan Boll, of Carlisle, Iowa, reacts as she puts her glasses on during an eclipse watch party in Des Moines, Iowa.
Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP
Guests watch the final moments before the total eclipse at the football stadium at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.
Guests watch the final moments before the total eclipse at the football stadium at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois.
Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

Here in New York City we got 71.4% of an eclipse at 2.44pm.

The peak eclipsing was obscured by cloud, which lessened the effect a little. The skies darkened but only in the way they do when a rain shower is imminent. The peak moment itself was a bit of an anti-climax. But at the Museum of Natural History we got a solid 30-40 minutes of moon on sun action, with occasional cheers and applause from the crowd.

No roosters crowed. No one burst into song. No human sacrifices were made.

But the clear skies did make for a beautiful image. Like this one, from the Guardian’s Paul Owen. He says he nearly blinded himself taking it.

The Guardian’s Charlotte Simmonds is in Big Summit Prairie at Oregon Eclipse – a week-long festival to celebrate the total eclipse. She writes:

On a prairie in the woods of Ochoco national forest, attendees spent the weekend dancing, swimming, doing yoga and attending inspirational talks. At 9am on Monday morning, thousands gathered on the hills around a lake for a special eclipse “ceremony”. Some played music while others chanted, though many sat in silence. As the moment of totality approached, shouts and applause filled the air. At 10.19am – the moment of totality – people embraced as the sky fell dark, stars came out, and the sun’s extraordinary corona was visible for a brief few minutes.

Colin Day, a video game programmer from the Bay Area, said this was his fourth eclipse. “I saw my first one at a small festival on Easter Island. Then one in Australia and one in Indonesia. It never gets old. It’s the most beautiful natural phenomenon I’ve ever seen.”

Sharon Melnick, 61, had travelled from her home in Klamath Falls, Oregon. “I knew this is where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be with.” She said it was her second eclipse and that witnessing the phenomenon was a moment to reflect. “I liked stepping into the silence and the darkness. I thought about what I’m leaving behind and what I’m bringing into the light. It was two minutes that could be used transformationally and I am grateful for it.”

Vanessa Baskin, an arial performance artist, had travelled from Brooklyn. For her the eclipse symbolized a moment of personal growth she called “a marriage to myself”. “The eclipse is more than a thing that’s just happening,” she said. “I’m putting my own meaning on it. I wanted to use the union of two celestial bodies as a metaphor for loving myself.”

Many at the festival said it had taken them 12 hours to drive on site, which was only accessible down a dirt road, on Wednesday and Thursday due to heavy traffic. In the nearby town of Prineville, a gas station had run out of gas for several hours. “We saw them get slammed for two days,” said Sherry, a local resident who worked at the restaurant next door. Speaking on the Saturday before the eclipse, she said the restaurant itself hadn’t been as busy as expected – “we’d planned for the worst” – but they hoped “business would pick up over the weekend”. And where was she planning to watch the eclipse? “From a chair in my backyard.”

Big Summit Prairie ranch
People watch the start of the solar eclipse at Big Summit Prairie ranch.
Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Trump watching the eclipse – in pictures

The president was watching the eclipse from the White House with first lady Melania – and he seemed to enjoy himself.

U.S. President Trump watches the solar eclipse with first Lady Melania Trump from the Truman Balcony at the White House in Washington.
Trump and Melania on the Truman Balcony at the White House.
Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump wear protective glasses as they view the solar eclipse, Monday at the White House in Washington.
Very natural eclipse-watching.
Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP
Trump, sans glasses, points skywards.
Trump, sans glasses, points skywards.
Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

Updated

Guardian contributor Lily Raff McCaulou was with eclipse-watchers in Madras, Oregon. She writes:

In Madras, Keeman Wong had been waiting 15 years for the moment. He first bought a solar filter as a middle schooler in Hong Kong in the 1960s, to protect his eyes during a partial eclipse. For the past 15 years, Wong, who now lives in Los Angeles, has attempted to witness a total solar eclipse – in Zimbabwe, Easter Island and China – but each attempt was foiled by weather, travel snags or state department warnings against travel to dangerous areas. He was entranced by how eclipse viewers spoke about their experiences.

“They describe it as life-changing,” he said.

This time, he let nothing get in his way. He even packed the small rectangular filter that he’d bought five decades ago.

“I got here early because I said, ‘if there’s an accident on the road, an earthquake … I’m going to be there,’” he said. “It’s worth everything.”

For Wong, the most spectacular moment was the end of the total eclipse.

“I’m not religious but I think it’s something very like when God says, ‘let there be light,’” he said.

Gabby Correa (C) photographs the sun and moon as a partial solar eclipse takes place outside the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California.
Gabby Correa (C) photographs the sun and moon as a partial solar eclipse takes place outside the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
Photograph: Mike Nelson/EPA
Sessions and Ross watch the solar eclipse from the Truman Balcony at the White House in Washington.
Sessions and Ross watch the solar eclipse from the Truman Balcony at the White House in Washington.
Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Asha Moore uses solar eclipse glasses and her iphone to show a friend from Canada on the phone the view of the partial solar eclipse from Beckman Lawn at Caltech in Pasadena, California.
Asha Moore uses solar eclipse glasses and her iphone to show a friend from Canada on the phone the view of the partial solar eclipse from Beckman Lawn at Caltech in Pasadena, California.
Photograph: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Groans here at the American Museum of Natural History as clouds obscure the sun, which is in the process of being obscured by the moon.

But then cheers as the clouds clear off!

“I’ve been excited all summer. I’m a huge space geek so I’ve been spending the entire summer figuring out the best plan,” says Brooke Boetticher, 21.

Boetticher is here with her mum, Janet, and sister Brittany, who is 16. They’ve travelled her from Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, to witness the eclipse in the city.

The Boettichers have all got eclipse glasses and have formed what they call an “eclipse family”. The eclipse family is made up of their actual family, two other women, and me.

“It’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Brittany says.

“It’s really cool to be able to see it and be here with a bunch of people who also like seeing the same thing.”

A quick scroll through this blog will reveal the difficulty I’ve had in describing the eclipse all day.

Brittany puts it quite well though:

“It’s like a reverse crescent moon. Instead of the moon its the sun.”

Updated

It’s been a big day for Nasa – the space agency reported 4.4 million people were watching its TV coverage midway through the eclipse, the biggest livestream event in its history.

The solar eclipse continues to march eastwards – and we’ve got about half an hour until its final bow at 2.49pm ET near Charleston, South Carolina. Send us your pics and video!

BlanchetteDan Blanchette and his son, Sam, 6, watch the final phases of a total solar eclipse in Salem, Oregon.
Blanchette
Dan Blanchette and his son, Sam, 6, watch the final phases of a total solar eclipse in Salem, Oregon.

Photograph: Don Ryan/AP
Visitors look at the solar eclipse at South Mike Sedar Park in Casper, Wyoming.
Visitors look at the solar eclipse at South Mike Sedar Park in Casper, Wyoming.
Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A crowd gathers in front of the Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory to watch the solar eclipse in Los Angeles.
A crowd gathers in front of the Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory to watch the solar eclipse in Los Angeles.
Photograph: Richard Vogel/AP

Updated

Here’s a refresher of where we’re up to. Idaho has just experienced a total eclipse, and cities and towns in the middle of the US will soon be treated to the same.

Here on the east coast we can already see a partial eclipse. South Carolina will be the last state to get a total eclipse, at around 2.40pm.

Map

Updated

The Associated Press news agency has sent out the following report under the rather alarmist headline: “THE MOON IS BLOTTING THE SUN FROM THE SKY”.

The shadow, a corridor just 60 to 70 miles wide came ashore in Oregon and then began racing diagonally across the continent to South Carolina, with darkness lasting only about two to three minutes in any one spot.

“The show has just begun, people! What a gorgeous day! Isn’t this great, people?” Jim Todd, a director at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, told a crowd of thousands at an amphitheater in Salem, Oregon, as the moon seemed to take an ever-bigger bite out of the sun and temperature soon dropped noticeably.

“It’s like nothing else you will ever see or ever do,” said veteran eclipse-watcher Mike O’Leary of San Diego, who set up his camera along with among hundreds of other amateur astronomers gathered in Casper, Wyoming.

“It can be religious. It makes you feel insignificant, like you’re just a speck in the whole scheme of things.”
Astronomers were giddy with excitement. A solar eclipse is considered one of the grandest of cosmic spectacles.

The Earth, moon and sun line up perfectly every one to three years, briefly turning day into night for a sliver of the planet. But these sights normally are in no man’s land, like the vast Pacific or Earth’s poles. This is the first eclipse of the social media era to pass through such a heavily populated area.

“It’s really, really, really, really awesome,” said 9-year-old Cami Smith as she watched the fully eclipsed sun from a gravel lane near her grandfather’s home at Beverly Beach, Oregon.

This blog is now being brought to you from the American Museum of Natural History. They were giving away free eclipse glasses.

I can report that a partial eclipse is in process. It looks like a pancake that someone has taken a very neat bite out of. Or like a cookie that someone has taken a very neat bite out of.

The Museum of Natural History is one of a number of places in New York City that were holding viewing events, and predictably it is packed. I’m sitting behind two children wearing ‘Nasa’ t-shirts, which seems appropriate.

A man next to me is talking about how everyone here will be dead in one hundred years. I was concerned it might upset the children in the Nasa t-shirts, but they are playing Angry Birds on an iPhone 4 and don’t seem to be listening.

In other eclipse news:

The moon almost totally eclipses the sun in Salem, Oregon.
The moon almost totally eclipses the sun in Salem, Oregon.
Photograph: Don Ryan/AP

 

Updated

While the moon begins to reveal the sun in Oregon, a total eclipse has just formed in Idaho Falls.

“It just got dark all around us and you can feel the temperature getting colder,” says one of the presenters on Nasa’s live stream.

There’s a lot of cheering. A scientist, whose name I didn’t hear, is very excited.

“Look at the ray structure,” he says.

“You can’t get that on film. There’s Venus. There’s Venus. Oh wow. Wow. Look at that ray structure.”

Total eclipse in Madras, Oregon

Here she is. This is the total eclipse in Madras, Oregon at 10.21am local time – 1.21pm ET.

Eclipse
The view from Madras, Oregon.
Photograph: Reuters

Updated

Totality achieved in Oregon!

Totality has reached the mainland in Oregon. What an incredible moment. Pictures to follow, and you can watch the live stream above.

Updated

Total solar eclipse nears – in pictures

Eclipse glasses at the ready in Depoe Bay, Oregon.
Eclipse glasses at the ready in Depoe Bay, Oregon.
Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters
A woman looks through a telescope at the sun the evening before the total solar eclipse in Madras, Oregon.
A woman looks through a telescope at the sun the evening before the total solar eclipse in Madras, Oregon.
Photograph: Aubrey Gemignani/Zuma/Avalon.red
People watch the start of the solar eclipse and raise their hands in prayer in an eclipse viewing event led by Native American elders, at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest.
People watch the start of the solar eclipse and raise their hands in prayer in an eclipse viewing event led by Native American elders, at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest.
Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

It’s all happening!

The live stream at the top of our page shows the moon slowly edging across the sun. It’s a majestic sight. Like a big black disc moving in front of a big white disc.

Or like waking up in the middle of surgery and the doctor’s head is looming over you, partially blocking out the light.

Updated

Donald Trump, the president of the USA, will be among those watching the eclipse today. Trump, a 71-year-old former builder, will be watching from the White House, where he will experience 81.1% of an eclipse at 2.42pm.

The Guardian’s political reporter Ben Jacobs has this:

The White House announced Monday afternoon that President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will watch the eclipse from the Truman Balcony which overlooks the South Lawn of the White House. It’s the second eclipse viewing event held by the administration today. Vice President Mike Pence had already been scheduled to participate in “a Great American Solar Eclipse viewing event” with charter school students at his residence at the Naval Observatory.

Updated

Some timings

As mentioned earlier, Yaquina Head, in Oregon, will be the first place to see the total eclipse. That’ll be at 1.15pm ET, 10.15pm PT.

Idaho Falls, Idaho, will experience the total eclipse at 1.33pm ET, while in Nashville, Tennessee, the sun will be

eaten by a dragon
blocked by the moon at 2.28pm ET.

Charleston, South Carolina, will be one of the last places to see a full eclipse, at 2.47pm.

The sun
The sun, uneclipsed.
Photograph: Larry W. Smith/EPA

The Verge has a really cool interactive which lets you enter your zip code to find out when the eclipse will occur. (And how much the sun will be obscured.)

Here at the Guardian office in New York the sun will be 71.4% obscured at 2.44pm ET.

Updated

Bonnie Tyler…

… will be performing her song Total Eclipse of the Heart during the total eclipse of the sun.

Tyler will be doing so on a Royal Caribbean ‘eclipse cruise’. The cruise liner’s press department is not underselling the experience: “Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas will be the only place on earth where you can see songstress Bonnie Tyler and DNCE perform a never-before-heard duet of the iconic 80s power ballad Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

Pre-eclipse viewing.

DNCE are best known for their song Cake by the Ocean, which is about eating cake by the ocean.

Updated

Eclipses in days of yore

In Ancient China, people thought that an eclipse was a dragon eating the sun.

In Vietnam, people though it was a frog that was eating the sun. In Yugoslavia it was a werewolf, and in Siberia a vampire.

Vox has a fantastic article on how people once interpreted solar eclipses, which also serves as a lesson in ancient civilizations.

Not all cultures believed the sun was being eaten. Others attributed its disappearance to angry gods.

The Aztecs certainly did. To appease those gods, they performed human sacrifices. It’s unclear if it worked.

The Greeks – always so sophisticated – thought an eclipse meant that gods were about to punish a king, according to Vox:

So in the days before an eclipse, they would choose prisoners or peasants to stand in as the king in the hopes that they’d get the eclipse punishment and the real king would be saved. Once the eclipse was over, the substitute king was executed.

Updated

Millions of people are traveling to the path of the total eclipse.

If you’re one of them, we’d love to hear from you.

You can share your pictures and videos by clicking on the blue “Contribute” button on this article. You can also use the Guardian app and search for “GuardianWitness assignments”.

We’ll post the images on this blog.

Mike Seely, who is flying on board a plane today in order to view the solar eclipse from the air, speaks to a former firefighter taking the same flight.

As a high-schooler growing up in White Plains, New York, Dennis Cassia and a couple of friends ventured to North Carolina to take in their first full solar eclipse.

“It was so spectacular that I kind of got the bug,” says Cassia, a 65-year-old retired firefighter and high school science teacher who now lives in Monroe, Connecticut.

Since that inaugural, intoxicating experience, Cassia has ventured as far away as Africa and Antigua to witness total eclipses from the ground. But on Monday, he’ll be high in the skies.

“Short of a hurricane or something, I’m not going to have to worry about the weather like everyone else,” he says.

“I have friends across the United States who are shooting the dice. At 36,000 feet, you’re probably not going to have any clouds, and they can divert if they have. Also, I’m going to be able to see the umbra [the dark shadow of the total eclipse] as it approaches — and probably on the ocean as we fly into it. You can’t see that from the ground; from there, it just looks like a thunderstorm is coming and then a shadow.”

Dennis Cassia
Dennis Cassia
Photograph: Courtesy Dennis Cassia

 

But for Cassia, a total eclipse is about more than the view. He says something primal — and, in some cases, spiritual — washes over mammals as the moon obscures the sun.

“You find out, during a total eclipse, just how in tune with nature you are,” he says. “Your body tells you something isn’t right. It looks like a sunset, but the sunset is 360 degrees. You get the colors of the sunset, but it’s the whole horizon. Insects behave differently; animals behave differently. Cows go down on their haunches. Then totality hits and you’re immersed in this darkness.

“I’ve seen people get on their knees and pray,” he continues. “I’ve seen scientists cry. All of a sudden, you realize, ‘Man, I’m part of this and I have instincts that I never, ever feel. I’m part of nature.’ Why do people go around the world to chase eclipses? It’s the only event that’s going to leave you totally awestruck.”

Updated

The last solar eclipse in the US was on February 26 1979.

The US and China had recently established full diplomatic relations, and the Pittsburgh Steelers had just won Super Bowl XIII.

Jimmy Carter was president, and just two months later he would be attacked by a swamp rabbit while fishing in Plains, Georgia.

Here’s how Walter Cronkite covered the eclipse for CBS News.

There are some good jackets here.

Updated

But what about my eyes?

Good question! If you are planning to experience today’s solar obfuscation, then do not look directly at the sun. It will blast your retinas.

While it is actually safe to look at the sun during the total phase of the eclipse, this only lasts about two minutes – and this only applies to the slim band of America that is experiencing a total eclipse.

Most of us won’t see that. In New York City, for example, the peak of the eclipse will be at 2.44pm. But only 70% of the sun will be obscured. Which means looking at the sun is as dangerous as usual.

According to Nasa the only truly safe way to experience the eclipse is through “special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers”. No sunglasses, Nasa says. Not even if they’re really expensive ones.

The Washington Post has a list of all the places selling eclipse glasses – you know the ones, they look like something you’d get in a cereal box – and some local libraries are also stocking them.

If the worst comes to the worst, or if you’re into crafting, it’s possible to make yourself a pinhole projector. All that’s required is two bits of paper. Or a shoebox, depending how much you want to get into it. Here’s a video from KNKX public radio.

How to not go blind today.

Oh, and ArsTechnica has a terrifying article: “Here’s what happens to your retina if you view an eclipse without protection”, which, er.. explains what happens to your retina if you view an eclipse without protection.

Updated

The Guardian’s Mike Seely will be watching the eclipse from something of a unique perspective – from 36,000 feet, watching from an Alaska Airways chartered flight, which will head out to sea in order to view the eclipse from the air.

A chartered flight will take off from Portland International Airport in Oregon on Monday, its destination … Portland International Airport, but only after it travels about 1,000 miles off the Oregon coast at a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet, where, at approximately 10 am PT (1pm ET), the passengers aboard this flight will get perhaps the inaugural glimpse at the first full solar eclipse to cross the contiguous United States since 1979.

Flight path of the eclipse-chasing plane
Flight path of the eclipse-chasing plane
Photograph: Handout

Joe Rao will be among several astronomy enthusiasts and eclipse geeks aboard this flight. He’s also the person largely responsible for the plane hovering in the air in the first place.

Back in 2015, Rao, a New York-based meteorologist and Hayden Planetarium instructor, realized that a full solar eclipse that would be visible from the ground in Indonesia in March 2016 would also pass about 700 miles north of Honolulu, Hawaii, before falling off the surface of the Earth.

“It gave me the idea that maybe if there was a commercial flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to Honolulu, you’d get the eclipse on the flight,” says Rao, who soon discovered that Alaska Airlines’ Flight 870 flew daily from Anchorage to Honolulu.

The problem with this flight was its departure time of 1.30pm. By Rao’s calculations, the only way its passengers would be able to observe the eclipse in totality would be for the flight to leave half an hour later.

When Rao approached Alaska with his idea to delay the flight for science’s sake, they initially balked, wary of their regular travelers objecting to their flight being intentionally delayed. But Rao eventually won over Alaska’s brass, and was among a dozen or so enthusiasts who were aboard the flight as it passed the sun-obscuring moon.

The Alaska Airlines solar eclipse flight in 2015

A YouTube video of Rao and his comrades going berserk at the moment of totality went viral, and this year the airline approached him about helping to organize the current charter voyage.

Rao has traveled the globe to take in 11 full eclipses prior to this one; he advises first-time viewers to “drink it all in,” don’t take any photographs, and eschew all gadgetry, especially iPhones. Paraphrasing Jay Leno’s summation of his first time hosting The Tonight Show, Rao says, “It’s like your first girlfriend: It doesn’t go very well, it’s over in a flash, and when it’s over, all you want to do is do it again.”

Updated

When and how to watch

Most of the US will see some sort of eclipse which – weather permitting – will be a sight in itself. But to see the full, total, 100% eclipse the best option will be through video.

Nasa goes mad for this stuff – “a solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles”, its website says – and the space agency will be livestreaming the eclipse on its website. That starts at 12pm ET.

You can also watch on Facebook Live, YouTube and Twitter.

Most of the main television channels are also carrying it. NBC, ABC and CBS will be hosting special reports from 1-3pm ET.

The Weather Channel has also teamed up with Twitter to livestream the event – that also starts at 12pm. So pick your poison.

Updated

Hello and welcome

Good morning and welcome to Total Solar Eclipse Day. We’ll be bringing you up-to-the minute celestial news as the moon passes between the sun and the earth, shrouding some parts of the US in darkness.

The total eclipse – meaning the sun is completely obscured – will pass through 14 states, beginning on the west coast in Oregon and bidding us farewell in South Carolina. Other states will experience a partial eclipse, as will some countries in Europe, Africa and Central America, but full darkness will be restricted to a band across the middle of the US.

Yaquina Head, a rocky outcrop that juts into the Pacific about 80 miles south-west of Oregon, will be one of the first places to experience the eclipse. A partial eclipse will begin there just after 12pm ET/9am PT, and they’ll get the full version at 1.15pm ET.

The path of the eclipse

It’s only going to take about an hour and a half for the eclipse to travel across the country, and from any given location in its path people will only be able to see the sun be obscured for two and a half minutes.

What’s more: the last time there was a total solar eclipse in the contiguous US was in February 1979, and the next one – assuming the US is still here – will be in 2024.

Science behind the eclipse

But don’t worry. You can follow all eclipse developments – right here. We’ve got correspondents in Oregon, in South Carolina and one person on a plane above the Pacific.

Let the eclipse begin!

Updated

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Total solar eclipse captivates America – as it happened - NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).