In pictures: Millions turn out across North America to witness rare solar eclipse

Key Points
  • Eclipse mania has taken hold of the United States, with millions travelling to witness a total solar eclipse.
  • The city of Mazatlan in Mexico was the first major viewing spot for the celestial phenomenon.
  • The next total solar eclipse over Australia will be visible from four states.
Celestial mania has swept across the United States, with millions of enthusiastic stargazers travelling across the country to witness the last total solar eclipse for the next two decades.

Viewers along the eclipse’s direct path were treated to the rare spectacle of the moon appearing as a dark orb creeping in front of the sun, briefly blocking out all but a brilliant halo of light around the sun’s outer edge.

Health professionals urged people to use certified eclipse glasses to prevent permanent retinal injury. Source: EPA / Peter Foley

At least 32 million Americans reside along the eclipse’s “path of totality”, which started in Mexico and stretches across portions of 13 US states, from Texas to Maine.

Hikers on a mountain looking at eclipse

Hotels and short-term rentals in prime viewing locations were booked solid for months in advance across states including Texas, Arkansas, Ohio and Maine. Source: AAP / Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Before the event, officials predicted another five million would travel to witness the event.

The beach resort town of Mazatlan was the first major viewing spot, with thousands of people gathering along the coastal promenade.

The crowds burst into cheers and applause as the eclipse reached totality.

People watch a total solar eclipse in Mazatlan, Mexico

Mexico’s Mazatlan was the first major viewing spot for totality. An orchestra played the “Star Wars” movie theme as skies darkened under the approaching lunar shadow. Source: AP / Fernando Llano

The period of totality, lasting up to four-and-a-half minutes depending on the observer’s location, was ushered in by other eerie eclipse effects.

A partial eclipse, in which the moon obscures only a portion of the sun, was unfolding across most of the continental United States.

A helicopter flies across the sky during a solar eclipse

A helicopter flies across the sky during the solar eclipse in New York. Source: Getty / Gotham

Eclipse hysteria prompted celebrations, with concerts, festivals, and viewing parties held all over the US.

In Russellville, Arkansas, a town of roughly 30,000 residents near the state’s only nuclear power plant, almost 400 couples tied the knot by the moon’s shadow in a mass wedding event dubbed ‘Elope at the Eclipse’.

At least two weddings and one marriage proposal were known to have taken place among roughly 2,000 people who assembled at Niagara Falls State Park, despite overcast skies.

A couple kissing while wearing solar eclipse safety glasses

A couple kiss during a mass wedding at the Total Eclipse of the Heart solar eclipse festival in Russellville, Arkansas. Source: Getty / Mario Tama

The event prompted a surge in accommodation bookings, with Airbnb noting in February that it had seen a 1,000 per cent increase in searches for short-term stays.

The eclipse pathline was also clear on a map showing Airbnb occupancy rates, which jumped to 100 per cent for the night of 7 April, according to data from short-term rental analytics company AirDNA.

What is a total solar eclipse?

The moon completely blocked the face of the sun, unlike annular or partial eclipses.

NASA explains a solar eclipse occurs when “the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, with the Moon casting its shadow” on Earth.

The moon covering the sun during a total solar eclipse

The total solar eclipse was viewed by millions of people on its path from Mexico to Maine. Source: AAP / Jeff Roberson/AP

As the sky gets dark, viewers on the ground catch a glimpse of the sun’s corona (its outer atmosphere), which is otherwise obstructed by the bright sun.

Due to the totality of the sun’s coverage, it is the only time you can directly look at the sun with the naked eye without damaging your retinas.

The dazzling display is only visible from a small portion of the Earth and doesn’t always align with densely populated areas, making it a once-in-a-lifetime sight for many.

Some US locations witnessed the moon cover the sun for seconds while those best placed had up to 4 minutes. Viewers outside the path of totality see a partial solar eclipse.

When is Australia’s next total solar eclipse?

Last April, in the Ningaloo region of Western Australia, including the town of Exmouth.
Luckily for Australians, the eclipse was
The next one, due on 22 July 2028, has the largest path of totality, crossing over the Kimberley in Western Australia, through the Northern Territory, southwest Queensland, and over Sydney.

– With AAP, Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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