WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Three years ago: The Great America Eclipse

Posted August 21, 2020 11:47 a.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2020 12:54 p.m. EDT

If you saw the total solar eclipse three years ago Friday, you were in good company. A University of Michigan study estimates 215 million people experienced the eclipse, nearly double the viewership of the previous year's Super Bowl.

  • 154 million Americans used solar glasses, pin hole viewers or other devices to view the partial eclipse
  • 41 million viewed the eclipse through a broadcast online or on television
  • 20 million traveled experience the eclipse along the path of totality that stretched across the country from Oregon to South Carolina.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse from Santee, SC (Photo: Tony Rice)

Solar eclipses are more than spectacular sights, there is much science to come out of them. Students used the same technique planetary scientists use to estimate the mass of distant planets to estimate the mass of the Earth.

An amateur astronomer replicated an experiment which upheld Einstein's theory of general relativity. Arthur Eddington led teams of scientists during the total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919, studying how starlight is directed away by the Sun's gravity. Donald Bruns repeated the experiment from Casper, Wyoming in 2017 producing the most precise version of the experiment to date.

Upcoming Solar Eclipses

The next solar eclipse stretching across the United States will be on October 14, 2023, stretching from Oregon to the tip of Texas. The Moon is closer to the Earth during this annual eclipse, nearly covering the Sun, but leaving a "ring of fire."

On April 28, 2024, a total solar eclipse will pass through Texas to Maine. Here in Raleigh, we’ll only see about 78% of the sun’s surface covered. The Moon covered 93% from Raleigh in 2017.

A total eclipse won't pass through central North Carolina until May 11, 2078, when the path of totality will stretch from New Orleans to the Outer Banks. It will pass through Charlotte and the Triangle before exiting out over the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk.

Solar Eclipses, past and future

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