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Total solar eclipse completes its journey

April 8, 2024

(CNN) — The total solar eclipse that swept across Mexico, the United States and Canada has completed its journey over continental North America.

Last to see the dramatic celestial spectacle were sky-gazers located along the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland, Canada, at 5:16 p.m. local time (3:46 p.m. ET).

Mazatlan, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, became the first city to experience totality earlier on Monday.

The total eclipse then darkened the skies over Texas, where spectators caught glimpses of stunning views, despite cloudy weather.

Next up were the cities and towns in the midwestern US, with Indianapolis and Cleveland among the places viewers experienced the thrill of the celestial event.

Those squarely along the centre line of the path of totality saw an eclipse that lasted between 3 ½ and 4 minutes, according to NASA.

In the US, an estimated 32 million people live within the path of totality and a total solar eclipse was visible for those in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, although weather threatened to spoil the fun for some.

Only a few isolated clouds were expected in Vermont through Maine, as well as Missouri through southern Indiana, making for optimal eclipse viewing. However, much of Texas and the eastern Great Lakes were issued warnings for less than ideal weather.

In the Northeast, eclipse chasers have encountered heavy traffic. While travelling along Interstate 93 near Lincoln, New Hampshire, this morning, Karen Siegel faced parking-lot level traffic just outside the path of totality. It took five hours instead of three to go from Newton, Massachusetts, to Barton, Vermont, she said.

“Our GPS said we’d get where we wanted to go, but parking lot 2 miles per hour was a little scary!” Siegel said.

A partial solar eclipse, where the moon appears to take a crescent-shaped “bite” out of the sun, was visible for those outside the path of totality.

For safe viewing, it was important to grab a pair of certified eclipse glasses or a solar viewer to watch the skies; it isn’t safe to view any phase of an eclipse, except for when the moon completely blocks the sun’s light, without proper eye protection.

And sunglasses, or multiple pairs of sunglasses, didn’t cut it.

The biggest risk of looking at the sun without the dark filter of eclipse glasses or solar viewers is permanent eye damage known as solar retinopathy.

This condition can improve or worsen over time, but it can’t be treated.

Special eclipse moments

While totality is considered to be the most exciting part of a total solar eclipse, there were other special phases to watch for before the big moment arrived.

Apart from the weeks and months of anticipation leading up to the eclipse, the longest phase of the event was the partial eclipse, as the moon slowly moved over the sun.

This phase lasted from 70 to 80 minutes.

But a great cue for spectators was when the skies started to darken and turn an eerie grey colour, about 15 to 20 minutes before totality.

Then, several phases happened in quick succession just before the sun’s light completely disappeared from view.

Sky-gazers observed drops of sunlight forming around the moon, known as Baily’s beads, as sunlight streamed over the craters and valleys of the lunar surface. (Photo: Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

After about 30 seconds to a minute, some of those drops appeared to merge together, creating a glistening “diamond ring” effect about a minute before totality.

During totality, the luminous glow belonging to the sun’s corona, or hot outer atmosphere, and its faint light is only visible when the sun’s ultrabright surface is blocked.

While totality is the main event, a few dots of light were also visible in the sky near the eclipse, belonging to Jupiter, Venus, Mars and the faint light from Saturn.

During the ephemeral darkness of the total eclipse, some daytime zoo animals were observed getting ready for bed, while nocturnal creatures, such as owls and ringtails, began to stir, according to researchers stationed at the Fort Worth Zoo and Dallas Zoo in Texas.

Through citizen projects, the public was invited to participate in some of the research that took place on Monday.

During the few moments of totality, local temperatures dropped up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas.

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When will the next eclipse occur?

It’s a bit of a wait for the next such celestial sightings in the United States.

Those living in Alaska will catch a glimpse of a total solar eclipse on March 30, 2033, and a partial solar eclipse will shine over most of the US during that event.

A total solar eclipse won’t be visible again from the contiguous US until August 22, 2044, but totality will only occur over North Dakota and Montana, plus northern Canada.

However, the next total solar eclipse with a coast-to-coast path spanning the Lower 48 states will occur on August 12, 2045.

The path of totality will arc over California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, with a partial eclipse visible across other states.

The sun’s corona is visible as the moon passes in front of the sun during a total solar eclipse at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest near the city of Mitchell on August 21, 2017 (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

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