Witnessing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Across America Mesmerizes Millions: Photo/Video Gallery

Solar corona and prominences during the total solar eclipse across America on Monday, August 21, 2017, as seen from Santee, South Carolina and 4.8 miles from the centerline. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

SANTEE, SOUTH CAROLINA – Witnessing ‘Totality’ during Monday’s ‘Great American Solar Eclipse’ was a truly mesmerizing experience far beyond anything I imagined and something I will never forget -That’s a sentiment shared by millions upon millions of fellow gushing spectators.

I was stationed in Santee, South Carolina, near Lake Marion and close to the centerline of Totality, along with space journalist friend and colleague Jeff Seibert. And we could not have asked for clearer skies to enjoy this awesome natural event made possible by a uniquely rare confluence of miraculous celestial mechanics.

Check out our expanding gallery of personal photos and videos as well as many more gathered from friends and colleagues herein.

Totality was mesmerizing! Although I fully hoped to see a science spectacle (weather permitting) – I wasn’t really prepared for the majesty of the ‘coronal fire’ of Totality on display in the sky that started with what seemed like a startling electric flash – – The sun was alive far beyond anything I imagined beforehand. An out of body experience truly beyond my wildest dreams.

And we really lucked out with the weather – – as the odds of good weather are apparently better near Lake Marion, local residents told me. Just 15 miles south in Saint George, SC where I held a well attended eclipse outreach event at my hotel the night before, it was sadly socked in.

Solar corona bursts out during the total solar eclipse across America on Monday, August 21, 2017, as seen from Santee, South Carolina and 4.8 miles from the centerline. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Despite a less than promising weather forecast, the threatening Carolina storm clouds obscuring our sun as we awoke and got our camera gear together Monday morning, fortunately scooted away.

Just in the nick of time the rainy gray breakfast clouds miraculously parted as eclipse time approached and almost completely disappeared by lunchtime – fully an hour prior to the eclipses beginning from our viewing location in Santee; near beautiful Lake Marion, South Carolina, which intersects the heavily traveled I-95 North/South Interstate highway corridor.

Like tens of millions of others, I’ve seen several partial solar eclipses, but this was my first total solar eclipse and it did not disappoint!

And there is just no comparison between seeing a partial and a total solar eclipse – sort of like a family before and after having a baby.

Solar corona and multiple prominences visible during the total solar eclipse across America on Monday, August 21, 2017, as seen from Santee, South Carolina and 4.8 miles from the centerline. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

A few hundred excited people from across the East Coast including some families with kids had coincidentally gathered at our Santee location by the Water Park.

At Santee, SC, we enjoyed unobstructed totality for all 2 minutes, 34 seconds – very close to the longest possible duration of 2 min 43 seconds experienced by folks congregated in Carbondale, Illinois.

Overall our eclipse experience began at 1:14:55 p.m. EDT and concluded at 4:08:01 EDT – nearly three hours.

Totality started at 2:43:42 p.m. EDT and concluded at 2:46:16 p.m. EDT.

View shows partial solar eclipse as the moon begins obscuring the sun on the way to totality during the 2017 total solar eclipse on August 21, as seen from Santee, South Carolina and close to the centerline. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

At lunchtime it was a boiling hot, skin stinging 95+ degrees F. But barely half an hour into the eclipse and with the sun perhaps only a third covered the area noticeably cooled and darkened and the sunburn was gone.

As the eclipse deepened, the sky really darkened to the point we almost needed a flashlight and it was downright comfortable temperature wise.

I’m over the Moon so to speak and still replaying the totality event in my mind from start to finish.

You can follow along by watching this thrilling solar eclipse video produced by Jeff Seibert, and listen to the cheering crowd to get a sense of our Carolina Totality adventure:

Video Caption: Total Solar eclipse from Santee, SC on August 21, 2017. We were 4.8 miles South of the Umbra center line, and had clear weather until just before last contact. Credit: Jeff Seibert

At Santee we were 87% into the umbra with a 70 mile wide (115 km) lunar shadow path width, at 136 feet elevation above sea level.

There is just nothing like ‘Totality’ in my experience as a research scientist and journalist – working with and seeing cool science and space hardware up close.

Totality is a natural wonder of the Universe and it was an electrifying event.

At the moment that totality commenced, day turned almost instantly to night as though someone threw a light switch.

I distinctly heard crackling sounds burst through the air, akin to a thunderbolt clap at that very moment – heralding our sudden jolt to totality.

Cheers broke out. Everyone and myself were so totally in awe of totality. And the sun’s brilliant while corona suddenly became visible, alive and in motion as the solar surface was completely blocked, hidden behind our moon. So I just stared at the stunning beauty, barely able to function as a photographer.

The planet Venus quickly and suddenly and incredibly popped out brilliantly from the darkness of the daytime sky. Some stars were also visible.

You absolutely must experience this incomparable wonder of nature with you own eyeballs.

Focus on the fleeting moment.

Because in a flash of just 2.5 minutes #Eclipse2017 was gone & done!

The all natural light switch had been turned back on by mother nature herself.

If only a replay or restart were possible – someone in the crowd yelled in glee. And we all thought the same way.

Totality, like rockets and science can be addictive in a very positive way.

Furthermore, we also saw the famed partial solar crescents reflecting through trees onto the ground during the partial eclipse phases.

A sliver of the sun reappears after totality concludes during the 2017 total solar eclipse on August 21, as seen from Santee, South Carolina and close to the centerline. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

We very luckily enjoyed virtually perfect weather and clear blue skies for the entirely of the eclipse – from first contact, through totality and the last limb of contact of Earth’s moon covering the sun.

Only a few scattered cloud patches dotted overhead at the start and rapidly exited.

And very happily we were not alone.

The Aug. 21 ‘Total Solar ‘Eclipse Across America’ was enjoyed by tens of millions more lucky spectators, including many friends lining the solar eclipses narrow path of Totality from coast to coast.

The 70-mile-wide (115 km) swath of the Moons shadow raced across America from Oregon to South Carolina in a thrilling event that became sort of a communal experience with all the explanatory news coverage foreshadowing what was to come.

Everyone in North America was able to witness at least a partial solar eclipse, weather permitting- and many did either on there own or at special solar eclipse events organized at towns and cities at museums, parks and open spaces across the country.

12 million people live directly in the path of 2017 solar eclipse totality as it passed through 14 states.

It was the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States since Feb. 26, 1979. And it was the first such coast to coast eclipse crossing the entire continental United States in 99 years since June 8, 1918 during World War 1.

The umbra (or dark inner shadow) of the Moon moved west to east at 3000 MPH in Oregon and 1500 MPH by the time it reached our location in South Carolina.

The 2017 solar eclipse began on the west coast with the lunar shadow entering the US near Lincoln City, Oregon at 9:05 PDT, with totality beginning at 10:15 PDT, according to a NASA description.

Totality ended along the US East Coast in the coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT. The last remnants of lunar shadow departed at 4:09 p.m. EDT. Charleston is about an hour or so east of my viewing location in Santee and folks there enjoyed stunning views too.

For as long as I live the 2017 Solar Eclipse Totality will be burned into my mind!

Partial solar eclipse as seen from Port Canaveral, Florida where a maximum of about 86% of the sun was covered during the 2017 total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Credit: Julia Bergeron

“I’m pretty sure it was not nearly as epic as the total eclipse. It was fun to watch with teenagers though. I think what was unique to me was that I was capturing the equivalent of a crescent sun. Did it get dark here, of course not, but there were a few minutes where the Space Coast went a bit dim. The most fun was looking for the shadows,” writes Julia Bergeron from Port Canaveral, FL.

Partial solar eclipse as seen from Port Canaveral, Florida where a maximum of about 86% of the sun was covered during the 2017 total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Credit: Julia Bergeron
The 2017 Total solar eclipse as seen from a cell phone through eclipse glasses and reached about 86% of totality in this view from Titusville, Florida on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit: Ashley Carrillo
The 2017 Total solar eclipse as seen from a cell phone through eclipse glasses and reached about 86% of totality in this view from Titusville, Florida on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit: Ashley Carrillo

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite Minotaur IV ORS-5, TDRS-M, CRS-12 and NASA and space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The 2017 Total solar eclipse as seen through eclipse glasses reached about 86% of totality in this view from Melbourne, Florida on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit: Julian Leek

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Learn more about the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, upcoming Minotaur IV ORS-5 military launch on Aug. 25, recent ULA Atlas TDRS-M NASA comsat on Aug. 18, 2017 , SpaceX Dragon CRS-12 resupply launch to ISS on Aug. 14, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events at Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL:

Aug 24-26: “2017 Total Solar Eclipse Minotaur IV ORS-5, TDRS-M NASA comsat, SpaceX CRS-12 resupply launches to the ISS, Intelsat35e, BulgariaSat 1 and NRO Spysat, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew capsules from Boeing and SpaceX , Heroes and Legends at KSCVC, ULA Atlas/John Glenn Cygnus launch to ISS, SBIRS GEO 3 launch, GOES-R weather satellite launch, OSIRIS-Rex, Juno at Jupiter, InSight Mars lander, SpaceX and Orbital ATK cargo missions to the ISS, ULA Delta 4 Heavy spy satellite, Curiosity and Opportunity explore Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

Solar crescents projected on the ground after sunlight funnels through trees during the partial eclipse phases on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit: Julian Leek
Solar crescents projected onto the top of a picnic cooler and pine needles on the ground after sunlight funnels through trees during the partial eclipse phases on August 21 in Santee, SC. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
2017 Total Solar Eclipse as seen from Red Bank, SC. Credit: John Gould
Solar crescents projected on the ground after sunlight funnels through trees during the partial eclipse phases from Red Bank, SC on Aug. 21, 2017. Credit: John Gould

“Astonished at the vivacity and brightness of the corona, and the contrast with the infinitely dark moon. Through binos it almost had me in tears,” writes John Gould from Red Bank, SC.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse and Bailey’s Beads as seen from Santee State Park, SC. Credit: Patrick Hendrickson/HighCamera Photographic Service
Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 as seen from Tennessee. Credit: Dawn Leek Taylor
Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 as seen from Tennessee. Credit: Dawn Leek Taylor

Tales From Totality: Standing in the Shadow of the Moon

A brilliant diamond ring punctuates totality. Image credit and copyright: Shahrin Ahmad.

They came, they saw, they battled clouds, traffic and strange charger adapters in a strange land. Yesterday, millions stood in awe as the shadow of the Moon rolled over the contiguous United States for the first time in a century. If you’re like us, your social media feed is now brimming with amazing images of yesterday’s total solar eclipse.

Already, we’ve seen some amazing reader images at Universe Today, with more to come. As a special look at a unique event, we’ve collected reader testimonies from every state along the path of totality of just what the eclipse was like.

Enjoy!

Oregon- Shahrin Ahmad (@Shahgazer)

We drove from Dalles at 3 AM. Nearing the observation spot, we got a flat tire! It was 5:30 AM, and no phone line! I sent a text to the land owner and somehow it reached him and we managed to be there by 6:30 AM. We observed from a secluded spot about 30 miles from Madras, with a 2 minutes and 2 seconds of totality. The sky was really clear during sunrise, but as totality approached we got some thin clouds hovering in the east. Luckily, it was thin enough to not spoil anything. The corona was incredibly beautiful with longer (streamers) jutting out at the 4 and 8 o’clock position. The first and second diamond ring were spectacular with the eye, probably with the help with the thin clouds. We calculated about 7 degree drop in temperature. The shadow was enormous, engulfing Mt Hood from the west and flew past above us towards and towards the Sun. Mesmerizing! 2 minutes simply was not enough, since this is probably my best view of a total solar eclipse so far!

The bright star Regulus, tangled up in the solar corona. Image credit and copyright: Shahrin Ahmad.

(Note: to our knowledge, no one witnessed the brief moments of totality as the umbra of the Moon brushed tiny corners of Montana and Iowa… if you’re reading this and did so, let us know!)

Idaho- Bruce McCurdy (@BruceMcCurdy)

How to describe such a magnificent spectacle in a “brief paragraph”? Our group from Edmonton observed totality under clear skies near Birch Creek, Idaho. After the Moon’s silhouette inexorably progressed & gradually swallowed up an impressive line of sunspots, the pace of dynamic events picked up dramatically in the minutes surrounding totality. The temperature dropped noticeably. Light faded & became “flat” while shadows became better defined & lost their fuzzy edges (penumbrae). The Moon’s onrushing shadow became visible on the mountains to our west, while rapidly-moving shadow bands squiggled on the ground around us. The sky took on an eerie indigo hue as the last vestiges of direct sunlight were obscured. A new & temporary centrepiece emerged in the sky: the black circle of the lunar night side highlighted by a spectacular corona, its far-flung pearly-white streamers contained within sharply defined edges. Around the black limb fiery coral pink prominences added intense colour highlights to the scene. Just beyond the corona gleamed Regulus, closer to the Sun than is possible for any other star of first magnitude or brighter, while off to one side Venus shone brilliantly, far higher in the sky than its customary window of dominance in normal twilight. All too soon the right edge of the lunar silhouette brightened, then blossomed in a brilliant diamond ring that continued to intensify for a couple of glorious seconds until filters again became a must. By now the mountains to our east were in darkness as the umbral shadow receded from our immediate location, leaving a number of our small party in tears from the intensity of the experience.

Wyoming- Kelly Kizer Whitt (@Astronomommy)

We woke up in the Tetons Monday morning to a sky streaked with clouds. But the hourly weather report showed clearing, so we headed to our spot before 7 AM. We were able to secure parking by our preferred observing location, the Mormon Barn with a view of the iconic Teton range in the background. Looking east, we saw the clouds slink away to the south until skies were blue and clear, despite lingering haze and smoke on the northern horizon from wildfires.

Crescent Suns along with the Tetons. image credit and copyright: Kelly Kizer Whitt.

Having been a science writer for two decades, I was well versed on total solar eclipses even though I’d never seen one first hand. But it didn’t unfold quite as I expected. The sky and air didn’t take on a twilight quality until the Sun was well over halfway obscured. Then when darkness fell, it came fast and the temperature dropped hard. We had on our eclipse glasses and were staring at the Sun, waiting to see bailey’s beads or the diamond ring. But first I glanced down and saw the slithering, wiggling lines of darkness and light known as the shadow bands. They have a truly creepy quality as they dance in the growing dark. Then we looked back up as the sliver of orange disappeared and the Sun winked out from our glasses. Pulling them off, my family let out cries of surprise when they saw the black hole where the Sun had been, surrounded by the long, wispy, intricate corona. The eclipsed Sun and corona took up a much larger space in the sky than I expected, but the photo I took (just like when photographing a full moon) does not give a true representation of what you can see with your eyes.

I only took three photos because I wanted to just enjoy the view. I almost forgot to look for the stars. We saw a plane, Venus, and Sirius. Our eyes never adjusted enough to spot Jupiter or the others and the rosy glow of a false twilight brightened all horizons in a 360-degree ring. So soon it was over. The bailey’s beads and diamond ring we missed as the total eclipse began, and appeared to us instead at the end. These phenomena were a bright and beautiful warning to get our eclipse glasses back on. The world returned to daylight fairly quickly, but the drop in temperature lingered a bit longer. Our memories will last a lifetime.

Nebraska- (@BigBadEd)

Having doubtful cloud forecasts for Scottsbluff & Carhenge,  we met on a foggy morning in Sidney, Nebraska with thoughts of changing plans to Wyoming for clear skies. As the forecast improved,  15 of us set off for Carhenge.  We arrived before 7 AM to plentiful parking & a few hundred people. Towards 9 AM the crowds started to swell, including aliens, welders and the governor of Nebraska. Joined by more people & dogs, I estimate around 3,000 people were at the site. Some clouds went by at mid-coverage, casting a spectacular crescent. Clouds cleared, and cheers rose as we went into totality,  such a beautiful sight some were moved to tears as the diamond ring emerged. A thoroughly wonderful experience shared with friends and spellbound crowd, definitely worth the trip from Florida.

Kansas- Michelle Tevis (@MichelleKTevis)

I saw it (the eclipse) from Weston, Missouri, just northwest of the Kansas-Missouri line. Clouds and rain obscured the sun for most of the eclipse, but the rain subsided during totality and allowed us to get outside for the quick move into darkness. Even though we couldn’t see the eclipse or corona, the atmosphere took on a different feel. There was a change in how things were colored — as if you were looking through darker and darker polarized glasses, and the silence took on a feeling, like a deep vibration.

Missouri- Jeudy Blanco (@Jeudyx)

Totality from Missouri. Image credit and copyright: Jeudy Blanco.

It was amazing. We changed plans last night, instead of going to St Joseph we drove to Columbia. I was really worried the first few minutes of the eclipse because it was cloudy, my PST couldn’t resolve the image of the Sun! But quickly the clouds dispersed. We were on a property from the family of my friend, around 25 people of all ages. When it was around 70% (partial) you could feel in the environment that something was going on. Everything got a lot more quiet and the temperature dropped. Everybody was trying to get pictures of the Sun with their phones on the PST. Then totality started, it was indescribable for me. I was seeing the Sun’s corona with my bare eyes. I was really nervous and anxious, actually. We could see Venus near the Sun. Everybody was super excited, I almost cried. The experience was amazing, a total success, the long trip was worth it.

Illinois- The Universe Today expedition to the Prairie State led by Publisher Fraser Cain also managed to catch a brief glimpse of totality through a gap in the clouds:

Kentucky- Mike Weasner (@Mweasner)

Earthshine (!) on the Moon, seen during totality. Image credit and copyright: Mike Weasner.

About 400 eclipse enthusiasts from around the world including me were part of a Sky and Telescope tour group. We were at Hopkinsville Community College located in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where totality lasted 2 minutes and 40 seconds, which was too short. We arrived at the viewing site about 4.5 hours before First Contact. Traffic was surprisingly light. There were a few thin clouds but nothing significant. Anticipation was high. Many of us set up cameras and were ready well before First Contact. First Contact occurred with a clear sky, and the sky stayed mostly clear until about 30 minutes before Second Contact. Then a large cloud covered the Sun. Fortunately the cloud moved on within a couple of minutes and the sky was mostly clear through Fourth Contact. Totality was beautiful. Most people saw Venus, some saw Jupiter too, but no one seems to have seen any stars although it did get dark at the site. Many people in the group left soon after totality ended, but I and several others stayed to view and photograph the eclipse through Fourth Contact. 

Tennessee- (Terry Horne @CapH_1)

My wife and I viewed the event from Sheep Barn Ridge, which is a few miles from Kingston, TN. We began the planning in late 2015 when we realized the shadow path was adjacent to our property near my folks in TN. Our location delivered 2 minutes and 29 seconds of totality, with clear skies, a valley pasture view among new friends, goats, llama, ducks, chickens and a few hounds.

An amazing expample of the “Diamond Ring” effect. Image credit and copyright: Phyllis Horne @sahgma

We experienced every awe & oddity we had studied during the ramp up to the event. My wife did an excellent job with her photo efforts. She balanced her personal viewing time and planned equipment duties well. This was a source of much worry and discussion during the months prior.

I’ll mention a few surprises. I was impressed by the amount of light cast on the landscape with barely a sliver of the Sun remaining. I suspect the ambient sunlight to the south east was the major source. The rapid transition to peak darkness was dramatic.

In contrast, I noticed a clear reduction of heat radiation on my skin with about 50% coverage. It was a hot day. I wished I’d had more time to observe the animals.

I found it somewhat humorous how many folks took all of the important PSA’s about retina damage to heart. Before totality they bowed their heads to the ground when they did not have their gasses on while walking, standing and sitting.

What I learned most was, to the inexperienced, East Tennessee Moonshine travels faster than the Moon’s shadow.

Be careful!

Georgia- Jeannette Iriye (@i_fridrich)

We found a lovely scenic overlook facing west in Sky Valley, just outside Dillard, Georgia. Skies were clear with only minimal cloud cover until about 13:30, when heavy cloud cover began to build in the south/southeast. The clouds obfuscated the remainder of our view of the eclipse directly. It did get much cooler, windy, and the crickets were singing just prior to and during totality.

A partially eclipsed Sun versus clouds. Image credit and copyright: Jeannette Iriye.

South Carolina- Terri (@wizbee1)

We didn’t make it to South Carolina, and had to turn the plane back because of weather. Watched instead from Saint Mary’s Georgia. Did feel the temperature drop and experienced darkening but not in totality.

And us? We watched from the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in North Carolina as the shadow of the Moon draped over the landscape. The rolling afternoon clouds afforded only brief glimpses of the partially eclipsed Sun. Then, just prior to totality, we caught the final moments as the Sun withered to a brief diamond ring flash… and was gone. Magic! Unfortunately, the corona remained hidden behind high clouds for the 107 seconds of darkness, though we were treated to an unworldly 360 degree sunset below the cloud deck. Nocturnal mosquitoes, fooled by the false dusk, began their rounds, as a light “eclipse wind” kicked up.

Author and wife (@MyschaTheriault) standing in the shadow of the Moon, plus our view from the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) just before totality. Thanks to @Dayveesutton for snapping the pic!

Then, it was over. Got the eclipse bug? Well, another total solar eclipse crosses the U.S. in 2024… but you don’t have to wait that long, as we’ve got one coming right up crossing Argentina and Chile on July 2nd, 2019…

I’ll see you there!