Millions Across North America Awed by Total Solar Eclipse Phenomenon


    By Stacy M. Brown
    NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

    The eagerly anticipated celestial spectacle of a total solar eclipse finally descended upon North America after a seven-year hiatus, captivating millions of skywatchers on Monday. With its grand entrance at the Mexican beachside resort town of Mazatlan, the eclipse marked the beginning of a mesmerizing journey along the “path of totality,” stretching across various regions of the continent. Eclipse enthusiasts congregated at numerous vantage points along the path, which spanned from Mexico’s Pacific Coast through Texas, traversing 14 other U.S. states before reaching Canada. Cities like Wilmington, Del., Philadelphia, Penn., Baltimore, Md., and New York City witnessed citizens stepping outside their usual routines to behold this historic event. Similar scenes unfolded in urban centers across Illinois, Ohio, and Texas, where individuals paused to witness the cosmic marvel.

    At a duration of up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds, the 2024 total eclipse exceeded its predecessor’s duration in 2017, which lasted up to 2 minutes and 42 seconds. According to NASA, total eclipses can range from a fleeting 10 seconds to an astonishing 7-1/2 minutes. Other cities along the path of totality, such as San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas in Texas; Indianapolis, Indiana; Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pennsylvania; both Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, along with Montreal, Quebec, hosted eager eclipse-watchers. Approximately 32 million people in the United States reside within the path of totality, with federal officials predicting an additional 5 million to witness the phenomenon.

    Numerous eclipse-watching events unfolded at bars, stadiums, fairgrounds, and parks along the eclipse’s trajectory, offering diverse opportunities for people to experience this rare event. Scientists estimated that the entire process, from the initial moment the moon begins to obscure the sun to the culmination of totality and the subsequent return to normalcy, took about 80 minutes. Veteran eclipse observers have described the moments preceding totality as ominous, with shadows taking on a peculiar sharpness and sunlight assuming an eerie hue. Just before totality, a phenomenon known as “shadow bands” may manifest, creating shimmering patterns akin to those seen at the bottom of a swimming pool.

    As totality approaches, stars become visible in the midday sky, while the abrupt darkness causes temperatures to plummet. “When a solar eclipse reaches totality, nocturnal wildlife sometimes wakes up, thinking that it’s nighttime, and non-nocturnal wildlife might think it’s time to head to sleep,” NASA officials wrote on the agency’s website. The final glimpse of brilliant sunlight before totality creates the enchanting “diamond ring effect,” wherein a bright spot appears along the lunar edge as the sun’s corona forms a luminous ring around the moon. According to NASA, the next solar eclipse that can be seen from the contiguous United States will occur on Aug. 23, 2044.

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