The Great American Eclipse of 2017

Davis Jackson, Writer

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As that song by Pink Floyd goes, “…and the Sun is eclipsed by the Moon.” On August 21, our nation gathered to view a rare astronomical event. For some people, it was the first and only total solar eclipse they will ever see. For others, it was reminiscent of the partial eclipse of 1979. For many, it was only a precursor of the eclipse in 2024. But for everyone, it was a moment of splendor, grandeur, and wonder. The total eclipse began at around 12:00 CDT in Oregon, and the partial eclipse started for the North Texas Area around the same time. Moving quickly, the path of totality passed over Salem, Oregon, Nashville, Tennessee, Charleston, South Carolina, and many other smaller towns in between. Each period of totality lasted only about two minutes and thirty seconds, but the view was unlike any other. Even places that had cloudy skies at the time of the eclipse still got to enjoy the otherworldly darkness that fell upon them. The eclipse occurred when the Moon, which has an elliptical and angled orbit around the Earth, passed directly in front of the Sun when it was close to Earth. This caused a total eclipse, which occurs about once every year. If the Moon were further away in its orbit, it would have caused an annular eclipse, in which a “ring” of the Sun still exists around the Moon and makes the eclipse too bright to look at without eclipse glasses. On the other hand, when witnessing a total eclipse, one may look at the Sun directly during the period of totality and see the beautiful corona that exists around the Sun. This corona is even hotter than the surface of the Sun! When viewing a total eclipse, one may also see Baily’s Beads, which is the Sun’s light passing through the canyons and mountain ranges on the Moon’s surface. A “diamond ring,” which is the small piece of the Sun not yet covered up, signals the beginning and end of the period of totality. This amazing occurrence is named for its resemblance to a shining diamond on the ring formed by the partially covered Sun. Whether for scientific purposes or the pleasure of watching this beautiful natural phenomenon, for one moment our nation came together to witness the magnificence of the universe.

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