Millions of Americans looked skyward in wonder through protective glasses, telescopes and cameras as the moon blacked out the sun on Monday in Oregon, the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States.
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 at Roshambo ArtFarm in Sheridan, Oregon.
“It was incredible,” said Cheryl Laroche, 57, who along with her husband, Rob, planned their eclipse trip for about a year. “It was literally cold and dark. The light was blue. It wasn’t eerie. It was just different.”
The rare cosmic event was expected to draw one of the largest audiences in human history, including those watching through broadcast and social media.
Some 12 million people live in the 70-mile-wide (113-km-wide), 2,500-mile-long (4,000-km-long) zone where the total eclipse was to appear, while hordes of others traveled to spots along the route.
The eclipse first reached totality in Oregon at 10:15 a.m. PDT (1715 GMT) and began marching slowly eastward across the country. The phenomenon will take its final bow at 2:49 p.m. EDT (1849 GMT) near Charleston, South Carolina, where eclipse gazers gathered atop the harbor’s sea wall.
Nancy Conway, 57, an elementary school principal, said she and her family made the drive to Charleston from Lynn, Massachusetts.
“Twenty hours, three drivers, four adults, two 6-year-old twins,” Conway said as she sat in a lawn chair facing the harbor. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
A number of towns within the total eclipse’s path set up viewing parties. At the Southern Illinois University campus in Carbondale, Illinois, the 15,000-seat football stadium was sold out for Monday.
“I woke up at 4 a.m. so I’m excited,” said Madeline Rubin, 17, who drove two hours to the stadium with others wearing T-shirts that said “I totally blacked out.”
The last time such a spectacle unfolded from the Pacific to the Atlantic was in 1918. The last total eclipse seen anywhere in the United States took place in 1979.
For millions of others outside the zone of “totality,” a partial eclipse of the sun will appear throughout North America, a spectacle that was expected to draw its own crowds.