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The United States Just Witnessed A Rare And Awesome Coast-To-Coast Total Solar Eclipse

It was the first total solar eclipse to sweep the US coast to coast in nearly a century — starting in Oregon and coming to an end in South Carolina.

Originally posted on
Updated on

* Tens of millions of Americans from across the country watched an extremely rare sight — a total solar eclipse that ran from coast to coast, Oregon to South Carolina. The last time something like this happened was 1918.

* The moon blocked out the face of the sun during normal daylight hours, causing darkness and doing things like changing weather patterns, startling some animals, and just being very cool and creepy to us humans.

* A 70-mile-wide swath of land was in the "path of totality" — meaning that people there saw the moon fully block out the sun, called the umbra. The rest of the country saw the moon partially block it, called the penumbra.

* President Trump watched from the Truman Balcony. Other people watched from fields and campsites with eclipse glasses or with cereal boxes. Here you can look at people looking at the eclipse.

* Of course, some people said they looked right at the eclipse and hurt their eyes. Smdh. Trump also looked at it but appeared to be fine.

* This is a handy guide to everything you needed to know about the eclipse.

* BuzzFeed News was live from Oregon and Idaho. Check out our feed here and relive this great moment in ~nature~.

First off, here's the moment, in all its glory, as seen in Oregon:

video-player.buzzfeed.com

Now, real quick, what the heck just happened?

BuzzFeed News

To get an eclipse, you need the moon to pass directly between the sun and the Earth, and that doesn’t occur very often.

That’s because the path of the moon’s orbit around the Earth and the path of the Earth’s orbit around the sun are not perfectly aligned. If they were, we’d get a solar eclipse every new moon, or once a month. But we don’t!

Instead, the moon’s orbit is tilted with respect to the Earth’s at just over a 5-degree angle — which means that often the moon is passing too high over the sun, or too low under it, to get an eclipse.

But sometimes — a couple of times a year — the moon’s orbit and the Earth’s orbit intersect, creating the possible conditions for a solar eclipse. Only when you have the sun, the moon, and the Earth all in one line, and at just the right point in the moon’s orbit — so that the moon appears the same size as the sun in the sky — have you got a chance at observing totality.

Read more here from Azeen Ghorayshi.

A lot of people enjoyed the eclipse! A lot of other people had eclipse fails, and looked at it without protective eyewear.

i looked at the sun for like a split second and now my eyes hurt super bad, science was not lyin man

And even though someone told Trump "don't look" — he stared directly at the sun anyway

Someone shouts "don't look" as Pres. Trump looks up without eclipse glasses on as solar eclipse passes over D.C.… https://t.co/qasqEThgnt

Trump's aides initially said he would watch the total eclipse.

Except only the partial eclipse will be visible from DC... https://t.co/ZKKfgvewrf

But that wasn't right and they corrected. Sad!

Updated statement: "The President will be watching the eclipse from the Truman Balcony with the First Lady today" https://t.co/HGHYxhnEmI

NASA, of course, went all in. Their Sun and Moon Twitter accounts declared war on each other:

HA HA HA I’ve blocked the Sun! Make way for the Moon. #SolarEclipse2017

uh, EXCUSE me?!? #solareclipse2017 https://t.co/T1WDs2JEdi

Then NASA unleashed the weather satellite footage:

#Eclipse2017 has made its way across the United States! #GOES16 caught it all from space!

The #solareclipse excitement continues! #GOES16 sees the moon's shadow movin' on! See more images and loops @… https://t.co/Au64QGqXD5

Here is what it looked like from GOES16 over the southeast CONUS during the #Eclipse2017 The cumulus field was comp… https://t.co/tP6wTBuk4U

BuzzFeed News joined these adventurous scientists who used the eclipse to study the ultra-hot material that surrounds the sun in Idaho.

Peter Aldhous / BuzzFeed News

“Looking good, boys!” It’s about 20 minutes before totality, and Steven Fearn is elated. We’re in a mountain valley in central Idaho. There isn’t cloud in the sky, and the haze from wildfires is lighter than we’d feared. Fearn, a physical sciences technician from Aberystwyth University in Wales, knows that nothing can ruin the observations, short of equipment failure.

The countdown continues. “One minute!” shouts our timekeeper, Jay Hale, a retired mechanical engineer from Arkansas. “30 seconds to total … 20 seconds to total.” By now it’s noticeably cold, and we’re in twilight.

Read more here from Peter Aldhous.

Some animals freak out during eclipses, poor things:

Smithsonian's National Zoo

People aren’t the only ones buzzing about the coming eclipse — some of our animal friends have a long-documented habit of reacting strangely to celestial high jinks. As far back as the 1500s, solar eclipse observers noticed that some birds stopped singing, or even fell from the sky, during them. In the last century, scientists have recorded a wide variety of creatures reacting to eclipses.

Here are some of the weirdest examples, by Dan Vergano.

Overall, it was a great few hours people spent marveling at nature. And now, eclipse traffic!

There's a price to be paid for totality. Missouri post-eclipse traffic.

Reporting by Nicole Nguyen in Oregon; Peter Aldhous in Idaho, Talal Ansari, and Azeen Ghorayshi in New York City; and Zahra Hirji and Dan Vergano in Washington, DC.

Contact BuzzFeed News at maggie.schultz+news@buzzfeed.com.

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