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America’s night in a day

August 2017 total solar eclipse

Day’s night: the Great American Eclipse. (Courtesy: Tami Freeman)

By Sarah Tesh

On Monday 21 August, the US witnessed some unusual events. Day turned to night, temperatures dropped as much as 6 °C, animals behaved weirdly and street lights came on in the middle of the day – all because a vast, 115 km-wide shadow swept across the land.

This was, of course, a solar eclipse – where the Moon passed in front of the Sun casting a shadow on Earth. Millions watched with special glasses, home-made pin-hole cameras, digital cameras, and – in the case of scientists – satellites and telescopes.

Among the spectators was my colleague Tami Freeman, editor of Medicalphysicsweb, who watched the event at the side of a road in Wyoming. At about 10:25 local time, the spectacle began and over the next hour and a half, Tami and her family watched the Moon move across the Sun’s face.

“The Sun transformed into a tiny crescent shining a dim silvery light onto the ground,” describes Tami. “And then – the diamond ring – the last beautiful flash of bright light as the Moon fully covered the Sun’s face. The sight of the Sun’s corona was breathtaking; the stars and planets became clearly visible in the sky, and all around a 360° sunset lit up the horizon in reds and oranges. Then just as quickly, the diamond ring reappeared for a brief moment, and the light began to return. Truly a privilege to witness such a spectacle.”

Tami captured some truly magnificent pictures of the eclipse from her spot on the path of totality (see above and the first below). Of course, there are countless other eclipse pictures on the Internet, but here are some of my favourites showing the phenomenon from a range of different perspectives.


Looking up

The eclipse's diamond ring

A diamond ring: the Sun peaking around the Moon. (Courtesy: Tami Freeman)

A composite image showing the progression of the total solar eclipse over Madras, Oregon

Full sweep: a composite image showing the progression of the total solar eclipse over Madras, Oregon. (Courtesy: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)


Zooming in

The International Space Station seen as a silhouette as it transits the Sun at roughly five miles per second during a partial solar eclipse in Northern Cascades National Park, Washington

Distant silhouette: the International Space Station silhouetted against the Sun during the partial solar eclipse in Washington. (Courtesy: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

X-ray images of eclipse taken by telescope on Hinode solar observation satellite

Up close: the Hinode solar observation satellite captured an X-ray perspective. (Courtesy: NASA/JAXA)


Looking the other way

View from the International Space Station

Sweeping darkness: the International Space Station captured the Moon’s shadow on Earth from a height of over 400 km. (Courtesy: NASA)

 NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) captured the Moon's shadow from a height of a millions miles away

Epic view: NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) captured the Moon’s shadow from a height of a million miles away. (Courtesy: NASA/EPIC team)


Back down to Earth

Pin-holes - natural and otherwise - created tiny crescent representations of the partially covered Sun

Little crescents: pin holes – natural and otherwise – created tiny crescent representations of the partially covered Sun. (Top row: NASA; Bottom row: CC BY 2.0 Hat4Rain; CC BY 2.0 Todd Petit)

Stay tuned for one more blog on the eclipse from David Appell in Oregon – where the Moon’s shadow first touched ground. And if you want to know where the next total solar eclipse is (and the 14 after that), check out the fun tool on Science News.

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