The astronomical show was about three hours long and to view it onlookers were using items like special glasses, welding helmets, cardboard boxes, colanders, trees, telescopes, cell phones and telephoto camera lenses with high-tech filters.
The solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, in the Tampa Bay area was a hit.
“I went outside from work right at peak time with my little glasses to watch the eclipse,” said Lori Roach, administrative assistant to the city manager of Gulfport. “I happened to glance down at the ground when I was taking off my glasses and I saw all of these little crescents. And, I thought, that is the neatest thing!”
Across the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, a narrow path of totality that was about 65 miles wide spanned 2,600 miles from coast to coast. The rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse along with Central America and portions of South America, according to the Associated Press news wire service.
Locally, the shadow of the moon covered about 81 percent of the sun at the peak of the eclipse, which occurred at about 2:50 p.m. The entire event was from approximately 1:17 p.m. to 4:13 p.m., according to local weather reports.
“I was expecting to be darker,” said a park ranger at Ft. DeSoto in southern Pinellas County.
At the peak, daylight dimmed a bit to a light shade of gray, as experienced by this reporter at the park. The temperature dropped a few degrees and a refreshing light breeze came in off the water of the Gulf of Mexico. After about five minutes, when the light was bright again, water birds resumed their chirping, mullet were jumping and tiny black flying bugs began biting as if it was early morning once again. The temperature also returned to normal.
The eclipse is “spectacular,” said Dr. Lukas Stiegmeier of Zurich, Switzerland. “It’s interesting to watch.” He, his daughter and a friend stopped by Ft. DeSoto’s east beach to experience the last few seconds of the eclipse through a high-powered camera lens being used by a Gabber journalist.
According to the Associated Press, “NASA reported 4.4 million people were watching its TV coverage, the biggest livestream event in the space agency’s history.”
The solar eclipse served to bring people together to share a common event. It was the first one to occur in heavily populated areas during the era of social media, according to the Associated Press.
Alex Young, a NASA solar physicist quoted by the Associated Press, said “the last time earthlings had a connection like this to the heavens was during man’s first flight to the moon on Apollo 8 in 1968. The first, famous Earthrise photo came from that mission, and like this eclipse, showed us ‘we are part of something bigger.’”
According to the Associated Press, “the last coast-to-coast eclipse in the U.S. was in 1918, when Woodrow Wilson was president. The last total solar eclipse was in 1979, but only five states in the Northwest experienced total darkness. The next total eclipse will be in 2024 and the next coast-to-coast one will not be until 2045.”
In 2024, “I’m going to video the whole eclipse even if I have to travel somewhere,” said Roach.
The Tampa Bay area will eventually get its shot in the path of totality during a solar eclipse – on August 12, 2045.