Home Lifestyle Total eclipse rivets world’s imagination

Total eclipse rivets world’s imagination

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This year’s path of totality was 185km wide and home to nearly 32 million Americans, with an additional 150 million living less than 200 miles from the strip.

The “diamond ring” effect is seen during a total solar eclipse across North America, in Magog, Quebec and Canada. The next total solar eclipse that can be seen from a large part of North America won’t come around until 2044. Picture: Stan Honda / AFP

ECLIPSE mania swept across North America as a breathtaking celestial event promised a rare blend of commerce, science and celebration.

The Moon’s shadow was to land on Mexico’s Pacific coast at 2.07pm ET (18.07 GMT), then speed northeast across a 15-state swathe of the US and on to Canada, exiting the continent over Newfoundland just under an hour and a half later.

Festivals, viewing parties, and even a mass wedding were planned along the eclipse “path of totality,” where the Moon will completely obscure the Sun’s light for up to a few minutes.

“Eclipses have a special power,” Nasa administrator Bill Nelson said.

“They move people to feel a kind of reverence for the beauty of our universe.”

This year’s path of totality was 185km wide and home to nearly 32 million Americans, with an additional 150 million living less than 200 miles from the strip.

Those further away can still enjoy a partial eclipse, or follow a webcast provided by US space agency Nasa. The next total solar eclipse that can be seen from a large part of North America won’t come around until 2044.

Businesses capitalised on the excitement with special events, while hotels and short-term rentals in prime viewing locations have been booked solid for months.

At the Stonehenge II park in Ingram, Texas, a replica of the prehistoric structure in England, eclipse watchers had gathered from across the world.

In Cleveland, where local officials expect some 200 000 visitors, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame planned a four-day “Solarfest” of live music.

And in Russellville, Arkansas, 300 couples are set to exchange vows at “A Total Eclipse of the Heart” mass wedding ceremony, with the “thin circle of light around the moon resembling a huge wedding ring in the sky!” the event’s website boasts.

Many schools along the path were closed or let students out early.

Several airlines advertised flights scheduled to pass under the eclipse, while Delta has even planned two special trips along the path of totality.

The Perryman Group, a Texas-based research firm, estimated direct and indirect economic impacts of this year’s eclipse could reach $6 billion.

The eclipse also offers a golden opportunity to study the Sun’s corona, the outer layer of our star’s atmosphere which is normally hidden by the blinding light of the surface.

Researchers were particularly thrilled about the Sun being near the peak of its 11-year cycle. Startling animal behaviour has been noted during past eclipses: giraffes have been seen galloping, while roosters and crickets can start crowing and chirping.

Nasa invited the public to contribute to research through its citizen-science project Eclipse Soundscapes, by recording the sounds of nature and submitting their multisensory observations. In humans, eclipses trigger feelings of awe and “prosocial” tendencies towards others, research has found.

Safety is paramount, with authorities stressing people must use certified eclipse glasses to prevent retinal injury.

Cape Times

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