Moon Blots Sun Out of Sky in Historic U.S. Eclipse

(AP) -
solar eclipse
Dan Blanchette and his son, Sam, 6, watch the final phases of a total solar eclipse in Salem, Ore., on Monday. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Americans gazed in wonder through telescopes, cameras and disposable protective glasses Monday, as the moon blotted out the sun in the first full-blown solar eclipse to sweep the U.S. from coast to coast in nearly a century.

“It’s really, really, really, really awesome,” said 9-year-old Cami Smith as she watched the fully eclipsed sun from a gravel lane near her grandfather’s home at Beverly Beach, Oregon.

The temperature dropped and birds quieted down as the line of darkness raced across the continent. In Boise, Idaho, people clapped and whooped, and the street lights came on briefly in the middle of the day.

It promised to be the most observed and photographed eclipse in history, with millions staking out prime viewing spots and settling into lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality – the line of shadow created when the sun is completely obscured.

The shadow – a corridor just 60 to 70 miles wide – came ashore in Oregon and then began traveling diagonally across the country to South Carolina, with darkness lasting only around two to three minutes in any one spot.

“The show has just begun, people! What a gorgeous day! Isn’t this great, people?” Jim Todd, a director at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, told a crowd of thousands at an amphitheater in Salem, Oregon, as the moon seemed to take an ever-bigger bite out of the sun and temperature soon dropped noticeably.

With 200 million people within a day’s drive from the path of totality, towns and parks saw big crowds. Clear skies beckoned along most of the route, to the relief of those who feared cloud cover would spoil this once-in-a-lifetime moment.