22 Aug 2017

'Eclipse of the century' passes over US

11:31 am on 22 August 2017

Millions of skywatchers - and internet watchers - have witnessed the biggest total solar eclipse in the United States in 99 years.

The moon passed in front of the sun on Monday afternoon (Tuesday morning NZT), casting a deep shadow sweeping from Oregon in the west to South Carolina in the east.

It was the first such coast-to-coast event since 1918 and was the first total solar eclipse to be seen exclusively in the US since its independence in 1776.

Media outlets dubbed it the "eclipse of the century".

About 12 million people live in the 113km-wide, 4000km long zone where the total eclipse appeared. Hordes of others travelled to spots along the route to look skyward in wonder through protective glasses, telescopes and cameras.

Many commentators believed today's eclipse would prove to be the most observed, most photographed and best documented such event in human history.

After weeks of anticipation, onlookers along the route whooped and cheered as it reached what is known as totality, plunging them into near darkness and colder temperatures for two minutes at a time.

"It's more powerful than I expected," Robert Sarazin Blake, 40, a singer from Bellingham, Washington, said after the eclipse passed through Roshambo ArtFarm in Sheridan, Oregon. "All of a sudden you're completely in another world. It's like you're walking on air or tunnelling underground like a badger."

"It just kind of tickled you all over - it was wonderful - and I wish I could do it again," said Stormy Shreves, 57, a fish gutter who lives in Depoe Bay, Oregon. "But I won't see something like that ever again, so I'm really glad I took the day off work so I could experience it."

US President Donald Trump was able to view a partial eclipse with his family from a balcony at the White House, outside the zone of totality.

He was shown squinting at the sun without protective eyewear, as an aide below shouted, "Don't look!" Looking at the sun during a partial eclipse can cause severe eye damage.

Mr Trump, Melania Trump and their son, Barron, then donned protective glasses.

NASA, which live-streamed the event as it crossed the country, delighted Twitter fans by having its official account for the moon throw some virtual shade at the sun.

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Photo: Twitter / @NASAMoon

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Photo: Twitter /@NASASun

Tens of thousands of Twitter users liked the exchange and many social media users responded with amusement.

"This is just too perfect. Congratulations. You have won the entire internet," one user, Andy Stein, replied.

"I feel the moon is gonna get some licks in but the sun is gonna come out on top," wrote another user, @GeeInTheNorth.

The next total solar eclipse visible from New Zealand will be on 22 July, 2028, with its path due to cross right over Dunedin.

- RNZ / Reuters

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