Rare Total Elipse Comes To U.S.

By Yanshu Wang, Nnamdi Egwuonwu, Kyrda Hedrick  April. 20, 2017


What is solar eclipse and where can you see it

 Angela Speck, an astronomy expert, explains what a solar eclipse is and why Missouri is a good place to see it. There are 14 states that are within the path of totality. This map excludes Montana and Iowa because the areas of these states where the eclipse can be seen are too small to picture. Click to get more information.  

Infographic by Yanshu


This is a national event

Dogs that bite the Sun. The Sun disappearing in shame. A bear having an argument that turns into a fight with the Sun.

People have been trying to explain solar eclipses for thousands of years.

"On the day of the new moon, in the month of Hiyar, the Sun was put to shame, and went down in the daytime, with Mars in attendance,” read ancient Mesopotamian records.

NASA connects this inscription with a total solar eclipse that occurred on May 3, 1375 B.C.

Through the centuries of man observing eclipses, several myths regarding their cause have surfaced worldwide.

Korean folk lore says that the eclipse is caused by “bulgae” or fire dogs that were ordered to steal either the sun or the moon. According to the legend, when the dogs bite down on the sun, a solar eclipse occurs; When they bite the moon, the result is a lunar eclipse.

The Pomo people of northern California have a different myth. According to their folk lore, a bear taking a walk along the Milky Way bumps into the sun, causing an argument about who will move out of the way. This fight is what leads to the eclipse of the sun.

Tlingit myth says that the sun and moon are husband and wife. A solar eclipse occurs whenever the moon decides to visit her husband.

Between two and four solar eclipses typically occur annually, according to NASA.  However, the shadow of the moon doesn’t always fall in a populous place or on land. The continental United States hasn’t experienced a solar eclipse in decades, but the event will occur this August.

The last time a total solar eclipse crossed Missouri was in 1869. The state itself was a mere 58 years old, and the American Civil War ended only four years prior. Missouri wasn’t included in the “path of totality” as much as it will be this August, as the eclipse only clipped the northeastern edge of the state.

The path of totality is a stretch of land that falls under the shadow of the moon. Because of the orbit and rotation of the moon and the earth, the shadow cast by the moon does not remain stationary. Instead, the shadow moves in a line that is about 70 miles wide.

An article published in the Memphis Reveille newspaper on August 12, 1869 details reactions to the eclipse.

“As this picture of nature, teeming with august splendor, cannot be portrayed by the pencil of the artist, so is it impossible to write its beauties,” the article read. “The naked eye could look toward the sun, with unusual indifference, only to behold that dark, dark side of the moon upon which the rays of the sun, from this peculiar position, could reflect no light. And then too, as the moon passed on in its silent majesty, the first rays from the sun burst upon the earth in a shower of brightness, proving what a powerful and inexhaustible fountain of light the sun is.”

Myths were present in Missouri during this eclipse as well. The same article tells the story of two people who hurried home to have a prayer meeting in anticipation of world destruction.

“They immediately mounted a horse each, and laying whip, run them at full speed, until reaching home, they rushed into the house, closed the doors, darkened the windows and going down on their knees, held an impromptu prayer-meeting, expecting each minute to hear the mighty crash of this world’s destruction. Thus, through their own ignorance and a failure to take the papers, they lost the sight of one of the grandest exhibitions of nature,” it read.

Despite all of the myths used to explain the phenomenon of a solar eclipse, the science and laws of celestial motion tell a different story.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon’s orbit brings it between the sun and the earth, blocking the sun’s light— casting a shadow on a portion of the earth’s surface.  When the moon blocks the sun, the sky becomes dark, and stars and planets that are typically not visible in daytime will appear. When the sun’s rays are blocked by the moon, the temperature within the path of totality will drop as well.

Although the mythical nature of solar eclipses has morphed into a natural occurrence, it does not take away the awe and excitement that surrounds the event.

On August 21, thousands of people in 14 states across the nation will wait outside with their eyes pointed to the sky. For a little over an hour and a half, that 70-mile wide circle will move across the earth, bringing darkness. Many will crowd to towns across those states in hopes of witnessing an event that lasts less than three minutes. On that day, they will be watching the sky for an eclipse that only happens in a location every 375 years on average, an event that may only be witnessed once in a lifetime.



Mid-Missouri cities to use an eclipse as a moneymaker

Click below to hear the story


more Fun Facts About Solar Eclipse

  • Humans aren’t the only ones who react when a solar eclipse comes around. Hover over the icons to find out how nature responds to this brief moment of darkness.

Infographic by Yanshu

  • Viewers need to protect their eyes from unusual sunlight. Here is a quick reminder for those who will witness it.

Video by Yanshu