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Throwback to the Great American Total Solar EclipseWhere were you on Aug. 21, 2017? On this day last summer, millions of Americans flocked to a 70-mile-wide (113 kilometers) path that stretched across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina to watch as the moon's shadow momentarily turned day into night. Outside the path of totality in most of the rest of the country, skywatchers looked (using proper eye protection, course) as the moon took a "bite" out of the sun's disk. The "Great American Solar Eclipse" was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people across the country, and "eclipse chasers" who traveled to the U.S. just to see up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds of darkness during the day. [Here Are the Most Amazing Photos and Videos of the 2017 Solar Eclipse]
Space.com asked readers to share their stories about the event. From cloud-fleeing road trips to spaghetti-colander experiments and picture-perfect moments of totality, here are their stories.
Fleeing clouds, chasing totalitySlide 2 of 19
Fleeing clouds, chasing totalityRobert Guajardo woke up on Aug. 21 in Omaha, Nebraska, where the weather forecast predicted "clouds and rain in all directions," he told Space.com in an email. To escape the clouds, he and a friend hit the interstate, driving with no particular destination in mind — anywhere without clouds would do. "Rest areas after rest areas along the highway were filled with tripods, cameras and people eager to get a glimpse of this eclipse," he said. Eventually, the pair stopped in Grand Island, Nebraska — about 150 miles (240 km) west of Omaha — where "the clouds were thin enough that we didn't have to look any further."
"Greg and I, along with hundreds of other people, stood there in the Walmart parking lot wearing our eclipse glasses," Guajardo said. "The temperature dropped maybe a good 10 to 15 degrees [Fahrenheit, or 5 to 8 degrees Celsius]. A calm wind began to blow. A purple haze started forming over the horizon like none I'd ever seen … then it happened. The sun was gone, and everyone started screaming!"
"To my dismay, I could no longer see anything through the eclipse glasses. It was then that I decided to go against my better judgement and take the eclipse glasses off. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see next. Imagine for a moment the sun as you know it being no more. No more yellow light. No more heat. No more squinting! Instead, a beautiful ring of blue light sparkling like a diamond."
"For just a brief couple of minutes, the Earth stood still."Slide 3 of 19
A 360-degree sunsetSlide 4 of 19
A 360-degree sunsetFor one eclipse-chasing couple, a hike through spider-infested woods in the blistering summer heat proved worthwhile when they got to see totality from a gorgeous, secluded nook of a park in southwest Kentucky known as the Land Between the Lakes. "I bought a trail guide booklet and convinced my wife we should hike into this area," Steve Davis told Space.com in an email. "We both thought it was a marvelous experience."
The couple traveled from Elmwood, Illinois, to see about 2 minutes and 16 seconds of totality. They originally planned to watch the eclipse from Fort Donelson National Battlefield about 30 miles (48 km) south, just across the Tennessee border, but instead decided to head north, where totality would last about a minute longer. "We did not try to capture photo of actual eclipse. We are not photographers. We took a couple of photos of the dusk that surrounded us," Davis said. You can read more about the couple's eclipse adventure in Davis' blog post at dailykos.com.Slide 5 of 19
Totality trumped these cloudsSlide 6 of 19
Totality trumped these clouds"The predictions were for bad weather," Ramesh Kapoor, a retired professor at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics in Bangalore, told Space.com in an email. Kapoor traveled to the University of South Carolina in Columbia to watch the eclipse from the Melton Observatory. It would be his seventh total solar eclipse — if the clouds were going to cooperate. "There were clouds keeping the sky nearly filled rather mercilessly since the evening of the 17th," Kapoor said. "The weather forecasts for the 21st were no less than predictions of a doomsday."
Observers patiently waited for a break in the clouds, and as totality grew closer, "the worried look on their faces said it all," Kapoor said. For a moment, he began to regret not going to a "better place" with clearer skies. Then something remarkable happened. "As the eclipse progressed, the clouds – the enemies at the gate — began to gradually retreat," Kapoor said. "We heard an uproar in the distance while [totality] still lay moments ahead. People got in action, the cameras clicked and the whole campus wowed and cheered the eclipse with a thunderous applause."
What seems like an eclipse miracle actually has a scientific explanation. According to meteorologist and Space.com skywatching columnist Joe Rao, totality can break up convective clouds — which form when warm air rises — by creating a pocket of cold air in the moon's shadow. "We got a great totality moment, a thin cloud cover notwithstanding," Rapoor said.Slide 7 of 19
Playing with shadowsSlide 8 of 19