Tourists flocked to places like Salem, Oregon, (where the eclipse made landfall) and Charleston, South Carolina, (where it exited into the Atlantic Ocean) to witness the astronomical phenomenon, the most impressive in almost a century.
The viewings were tainted by reports of faulty eclipse eyewear (the sun is dangerous to stare at, even when it's blocked by the moon) and lost productivity (to the tune of $700 million, according to executive firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas), in addition to horror stories about logistical nightmares in the numerous small towns along the eclipse's path, which temporarily played host to tens of thousands of eager eclipse viewers from across the country.
This doesn't even do it justice! The temp dropped like crazy! Birds were flying everywhere. A sunset all around! Beautiful!!! pic.twitter.com/3Yc7Utctfn— Fatniss Neverlean (@Sofooo) August 21, 2017
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon and the sun's orbits sync up, causing the moon to block (or "occult") the sun. For a few minutes, the moon entirely obscures the sun's disk, with only the bubble of superheated plasma (the corona) around the sun being visible.
Partial eclipses (when the moon only blocks a fragment of the sun) and annular solar eclipses (when the moon is in front of the sun, but sunlight is still able to creep around the edges and reach Earth) are common occurrences — but a true total solar eclipse is quite rare.
This is what 99% totality looks like my friends! pic.twitter.com/yCBAIgfddT— James Torrez (@JamesTorrez_NC9) August 21, 2017
The last year that a total solar eclipse was visible in the continental United States was 1979, and then only in five states. The 2017 eclipse is the most impressive one to be visible since the 1918 event, the last one to cross the United States from coast to coast.
But those who miss the most breathtaking American astronomical event of the last century won't have to wait another 100 years. A solar eclipse of comparable size (crossing over 12 states) will pass from coast to coast in April 2024.