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  • Ian Brooking

Biggest letdown of a lifetime: Solar Eclipse 2017

For the first time in nearly four decades, a total solar eclipse was visible in the contiguous United States and while many were able to view this beautiful phenomena, students and faculty at Coastal Carolina only saw clouds.

While the eclipse was going to last for three hours, the clouds came in at the right moment to block the 99 percent blockage of the sun. This caused the many students and faculty who came out to Prince Lawn to view this “once in a lifetime” event to leave upset and disappointed.

Ed Piotrowski, chief meteorologist at ABC 15 News in Conway, South Carolina, went back and talked about the weather forecast for that day.

“The forecast for the day of the eclipse was partly sunny skies with the possibility of showers and storms at any time during the day,” said Piotrowski. “I kept reminding everyone that the eclipse was going to visible for three hours so people would be able to see a great deal of it. What we can't tell you is if there will be a cloud that covers the sun and moon right at totality, which was only up to two minutes and 34 seconds.”

Several comments such as “It was supposed to be super bright” and “If it is so bright then why couldn’t we see it through a cloud” could be heard as letdown students and faculty went back to their classes and offices after the point of totality had passed.

Piotrowski cleared up those comments and explained why the eclipse was not visible through the clouds.

“Actually, the eclipse is not bright,” said Piotrowski. “It slowly gets darker. Even when 99.2 percent of the sun is blocked by the moon at maximum eclipse, there is still a ton of light coming around the sun that drowns out your ability to see the corona. You had to be in 100 percent totality to see that. Even then, during totality, the sky is much darker and the corona not brighter than the sun so you can see it through thick clouds.”

While people viewing the eclipse on Prince Lawn were not able to see the eclipse during totality, there were several students who were living at University Place who were able to see it just fine.

Piotrowski explained the spottiness of the viewing for the eclipse.

“In the summer time in the south, most of the clouds we get are convective,” said Piotrowski. “In other words, moisture and heat rise created numerous cumulus clouds that can grow into full-fledged showers and storms. Due to these showers and storms tower vertically, they don't always cover then entire sky. Basically, you were either luck or unlucky when it comes to where the clouds were at max eclipse.”

To some, not being able to see the eclipse has already been labeled “the biggest disappointment of their life."

It is understandable that people feel shorted since nothing like it happened in over 30 years. Not only that, this was the first total solar eclipse to be visible across the contiguous United States since 1918.

So, to not see the eclipse in totality can definitely be seen as decent enough reason to feel letdown. However, there will be four more eclipses that will grace the United States sky in the next 31 years.

The next total solar eclipse will happen on April 8, 2024 and can viewed in 14 states – Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maine and Michigan.

Another solar eclipse will occur on August 12, 2045 and can viewed in 10 states – California, Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

There will also be two more annular eclipses, occurring on October 14, 2023 and June 11, 2048.

An annular solar eclipse occurs when the moon's apparent diameter is smaller than the sun's, blocking most of the sun's light and causing the sun to look like a massive ring in the sky.

While it may feel like you missed out on something you’ll never see again, don’t worry. There will be another eclipse in the American sky soon enough.

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