Here comes the Sun. And there it goes.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Monday, June 17, 2024

Here comes the Sun. And there it goes.
The solar eclipse near totality at the Indianapolis Zoo in Indianapolis, on Monday, April 8, 2024. In the minutes before totality at the Indianapolis Zoo, as an eerie dusk descended, many of the animals seemed to think it was nighttime. (Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times)

by Thomas Fuller

NEW YORK, NY.- The North American total eclipse of 2024 began with a hushed calm in Mazatlán, Mexico, as crowds along the shores of the Pacific Ocean felt the temperature drop and the darkness descend.

“It’s happening!” shouted Dr. James Raniolo, 50, a doctor from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, who had booked a last-minute ticket to Mazatlán to see the eclipse.

For the millions of Mexicans, Americans and Canadians in the path of totality Monday, the eclipse offered a celestial diversion, a break from politics, a respite from relentless images of foreign wars and myriad other troubles.

In Russellville, Arkansas, couples used the occasion to stage a mass wedding. A Beatles tribute band called the Liverpool Legends provided the musical accompaniment.

“This is a big gig for us,” one of the singers said. “We’ve never opened for the sun before.”

Naturally, the band played “Here Comes the Sun.”

The total eclipse cut a diagonal path through North America like a royal sash. Slicing through Mexico, the path crossed over into the United States at Eagle Pass, Texas, the border town that has been in the news for an influx of immigrants. On Monday it was inundated with eclipse watchers ultimately disappointed by heavy cloud cover.

The celestial alignment brought darkness to Austin, Texas; Dallas; Little Rock, Arkansas; Indianapolis; Cleveland; Buffalo, New York; and Montreal.

Some who watched along the path howled like wolves. Others simply cheered. Many school districts along the path of totality canceled in-person class for eclipse day.

North of Austin, eclipse watchers felt especially lucky when clouds parted and the sky cleared for the full totality.

In Buffalo, under mounting cloud cover, two fortunetellers sat in competing booths side by side at an eclipse festival, both offering tarot readings. “Eclipse season can be a pivotal time,” Kay Donnelly said at her booth, Green Apotheca, adding, “I already locked my keys in my car this morning.”

In Indianapolis, crowds formed around the bird exhibits at the zoo. “It seems that birds and insects are affected by the eclipse the most,” said Megan VanderMolen, who had driven from Michigan with her husband and 5-year-old daughter.

The last eclipse across the United States was in 2017. Many of those who traveled long distances to view the eclipse Monday knew that the wait for the next one — in August 2044 — would be very long.

At Niagara Falls, thick clouds threatened the eclipse party. But cheers went up as a partly eclipsed sun poked through. “C’est magnifique!” exclaimed a woman from Paris.

Even those outside the path of totality flocked outdoors and peered skyward. In Los Angeles, 49% of the sun was obscured. In San Francisco, it was just 34%, changing the hue of the daylight only slightly. And in New York City, the sun was 90% blocked by the moon.

At Hudson River Park, in Manhattan, a crowd surrounded Chris Vallo and the large telescope he had carried out to let people view the eclipse.

“I love this kind of thing because it unites New Yorkers,” he said. “I don’t have a guitar or a paintbrush, but I can bring this out and it gets everyone together to watch something uplifting.”

At the mass wedding in Arkansas, the officiant was Craig Wayne Boyd, a country singer-songwriter who was ordained just last week.

“As the shadow of this eclipse gently falls upon us, we stand together witnessing love’s powerful call,” he said to the gathered couples. “In this extraordinary moment when day turns to night and back again, numerous couples will join hands, their futures just as bright as the light’s return.”

The First Glimpse

Spectacular weather. Dancing in the streets. Free eclipse glasses. Expressions of awe. Cliff divers.

The eclipse in Mazatlán, Mexico, did not disappoint.

More than 100,000 visitors from around the world flooded into the city on Mexico’s Pacific Coast to see the eclipse make landfall in North America. First, they cheered, then they applauded, then they began screaming as darkness enveloped the city.

“It puts perspective in the universe, perspective in your life,” said Raniolo, the doctor from Wyoming.

Raniolo, who saw his first eclipse in Wyoming in 2017, said he had originally planned to fly his small plane to Arkansas for the event. But he changed his mind after weather forecasts showed high chances of clouds and rain in the area.

“I can’t imagine being anywhere else in the world for this,” he said.

Many others among the thousands gathered along Mazatlán’s seaside promenade agreed. Kris Reif, 71, who retired outside Denver after working in the mutual fund industry, said she was struck by the peaceful, collective experience of witnessing the eclipse.

“This is a day I will never forget,” said Reif, who traveled to Mazatlán with 26 others.

Some, like Reif, were mothers traveling with their adult children. Many in the group were wearing sequined clothing. They called their festive crew “Mamas-atlan.”

After cliff divers wrapped up their show while the sun came to resemble a Pac-Man shape during the partial-eclipse phase, the stretch of darkness during about four minutes of totality turned Mazatlán from a place of revelry to one of quiet contemplation, marked by the occasional shout of awe.

The temperature dropped. Birds fluttered in the sky. Strangers hugged one another.

“Put this experience into words?” asked Hillary Witte, who came to Mazatlán from Seattle to celebrate her 40th birthday on the day of the eclipse. She wore a crown as friends gathered around her to whoop at the sky.

“Awesome,” she said. “Simply awesome.” — SIMON ROMERO

Above the Clouds

Do Trinh, an IT risk consultant from Amsterdam, was aboard Delta Air Lines Flight 1218 over the Missouri-Arkansas border when he witnessed totality from around 30,000 feet.

It started off as a golden sunset, he said. Then the area went dark, and there it was: the black circle of the moon surrounded by a white ring of light. Passengers gave one another guidance on the best angles to look at the spectacle.

“Seeing the eclipse with my own eyes is just something else,” Trinh, 47, said. “I got goose bumps and all; there really is something magical about it.”

That flight was one of two special Delta trips Monday — one departing from Austin and the other from Dallas-Fort Worth, both arriving in Detroit — that were aimed at seeing totality above the clouds. Demand for the special routes was high; the flight from Austin, on an Airbus A220, which seats 130 passengers and has extra-large windows, sold out within 24 hours.

The pilots on these flights tried to give passengers on both sides of the plane the best view by performing maneuvers like banking and turning the aircraft.

Trinh said he took four flights, starting in Amsterdam, to reach Austin, where he boarded the three-hour Delta eclipse flight. The endeavor, he explained, was all part of an epic effort to amass enough frequent-flyer points to eventually reach KLM’s Platinum for Life status — as well as to see an eclipse in flight.

The experience of totality, which he said lasted about two minutes, was long enough for a couple on the flight to get engaged.

Before Monday’s eclipse, he’d last seen one in 1999 in the north of France. He said he’d forgotten how amazing and indescribable it was to gaze at totality.

“It feels like you need a poet or something to describe it,” he remarked, “not an IT guy.” — CHRISTINE CHUNG

At the Zoo

In the minutes before totality at the Indianapolis Zoo, as an eerie dusk descended, many of the animals seemed to think it was nighttime.

Normally, the macaws of all colors — blue, yellow, rainbow — squawk so loudly that the din drowns out normal conversation. But inside their outdoor aviary, which allows for sunlight to fill the enclosure, they made only a low purring noise, a sound they often let out when they are going to sleep. The lorikeets stopped singing and appeared to start snoozing. So, too, did the budgies, which were perched on tree branches in their aviary in a sleepy splash of green, yellow and blue.

The flamingos, though, didn’t seemed interested in napping at all. Gathering in a loose salmon-pink huddle, they seemed on alert, much different from how they usually fan out.

On another side of the zoo, the lions rose from a wooden platform that they had been lounging on, and roared. The cheetahs appeared to be equally disturbed. They rose from their lounging session and paced around their hilly enclosure, with one stopping at the highest point of the grass to scan the area around him. The rhinos, warthogs and porcupines just wanted food: They circled in front of their enclosure’s door, as if it were time to eat dinner.

And at totality, as the people at the zoo began to cheer, some animals seemed to react not to the lack of light — but to the unfamiliar abundance of loud people. The baboons that had been sitting quietly began running from rock to rock in the highest part of their exhibit. And the gibbons, a type of small ape, whoop-whooped, creating a sound as if a fire alarm had gone off.

“I didn’t expect the baboons to do anything,” said Caitlyn Cooksey, who is studying animal behavior at Indiana University, in Bloomington, and was recording the baboons’ reactions for a formal survey. “But they actually reacted much more than I thought. It was really cool to see it.”

But at times it was unclear who was watching whom at the zoo.

In an area where chimpanzees were perched above people lying on the ground to look at the eclipse, the animals sat and stared at people transfixed, acting so strangely. — JULIET MACUR

On the Border

Just before the eclipse reached totality in the border town of Eagle Pass, Carolina Rocha walked out of the discount store where she works and watched as the International Bridge closed to traffic. The bustling corner, steps away from the neighboring Mexican city of Piedras Negras, stood still for several minutes.

“I’ve never seen it like this,” said Rocha, 25.

Eagle Pass was one of the first U.S. cities to experience the total eclipse. The natural phenomenon allowed the city of 28,000 people, which had become the epicenter of the migrant crisis, to trade one influx for another — this time scores of visitors arriving to watch the eclipse steps away from the Rio Grande and Shelby Park, an expansive green space that had been taken over by state officials to stem the flow of migrants. The city held a three-day music festival and other events, expecting “millions of dollars” in revenue after a drop in resources during the recent migrant crises.

On Monday the mood was festive. People wearing eclipse glasses stood by the gates of the park and tried to catch a glimpse of the moon sliding over the sun amid heavy clouds. At one point, the sun became visible for an instant, prompting Stephanie Estrada, 32, to alert her mother, Mina Estrada, 67, “¡Mira, Amá, ahí está, un poquito!” (“Look, Ma’, there it is, a little bit!”) The elder Estrada perked up, then let out a disappointed sigh when clouds covered the sun again.

Two blocks away, 7-year-old Aidan Hernandez and his 8-year-old cousin, Orly Muñoz, acted as alert systems, announcing to a gathering crowd the moment there was a clear view of the eclipse.

At about 2:27 p.m. Eastern time, darkness fell over town, with some people clapping and others yelling “Oh, my God!” A cold chill blanketed the streets. Argelia Bora, 67, who works in money exchange, on a bustling block near the International Bridge, came out and yelled jokingly, “It’s nighttime. Time to close up and go home!”

As the sunlight returned, Mireya Muñoz, 42, put her hands together and prayed. She said moments earlier that the darkness had felt as if a storm was brewing. The return of the sun’s rays made her feel at peace.

“I wanted to thank God because we are alive and allowed us to see it. I hope to be alive to see the next one too,” she said. — EDGAR SANDOVAL

Musical Accompaniment

Vampire Weekend performed for 5,000 fans at the Moody Amphitheater in Austin on Monday, with more viewing for free from the top of a nearby parking garage. The concert was a family affair, with children, teenagers and adults of all ages joining in on the rare opportunity to watch the rock band perform during a total solar eclipse.

“Thanks for being with us on a Monday,” the band’s lead singer, Ezra Koenig, said once the band was onstage. “This is one of the greatest collections of shirts we’ve ever seen.”

Once the eclipse began, the band stopped performing. The skies darkened quickly at around 1:35 Central time, but with heavy cloud coverage, it looked more like it was going to rain rather than turn into a pitch-black sky. Still, the serene moment garnered excited cheers from the crowd.

The clouds did part a couple of times, and the crowd began to cheer loudly for a moment they had been highly anticipating. One crowd member yelled “Do it again!” when the clouds parted and revealed a sliver of the sun’s light.

Just minutes later, sunlight returned, with the cloud coverage never truly lifting. Regardless, the crowd was jubilant all afternoon — drumming along to the beat, hugging loved ones and singing along to the lyrics.

“Talk about a buzzer beater,” Koenig said of the sun’s speedy appearance. — COLBI EDMONDS

Finding the Magic

On Monday morning, Saraí, a 7-year-old girl from Venezuela, sat on the patio of a migrant shelter in the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras eating cornflakes. She couldn’t wait for the total solar eclipse to begin.

“I want to see it!” she screamed, almost knocking over her cereal.

The rest of the group was more apathetic and looked tired. Around 30 adults and children are staying at the migrant shelter run by the First Baptist Church, just over the border from Eagle Pass. But the adults were more concerned about the impact of the eclipse.

“Can we go blind if we look at it?” said Emerson José Guido Baca, 22, from Nicaragua, while carrying his 5-month-old daughter.

Some men, mostly from Honduras, were more worried about another event that would also happen at 1 p.m. local time Monday, something they’d been waiting months for: their appointments with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

As the eclipse began, the children at the shelter went up to the terrace, and the atmosphere filled with excitement. They didn’t get the view they were hoping for as cloudy skies blocked the sun most of the morning, but around 12:25 p.m., they were able to catch a glimpse of the eclipse.

“Aye, I saw it! I saw it! So beautiful!” said Aran David, a 10-year-old from Venezuela.

As the eclipse reached totality, with few clouds in sight, Aran stood speechless.

“It looks amazing!” he said, giving a thumbs up. — CHANTAL FLORES

‘It’s Now or Never’

Anticipating snarled traffic and spotty student attendance, schools in Canton, Texas, population 4,229, were among the districts in East Texas that closed Monday for the solar eclipse. Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush bloomed along Interstate 20, where signs warned visitors to “ARRIVE EARLY, STAY PUT, LEAVE LATE.”

The city, about 60 miles east of Dallas, purchased 7,000 custom eclipse glasses for a partial eclipse last fall and Monday’s full solar eclipse. But Monday’s forecast was for heavy cloud cover, and some maps showed possibilities of hail or tornadoes.

“It’s just a total crapshoot,” said Don Kelly, a retired police officer who traveled from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife, Donna. “There’s no do-overs for whatever number of years. It’s now or never for some of us.”

Edgar Peréz kept his son Evan, 13, and daughter Ariana, 6, home from school to experience the eclipse. He hoped they would recognize “the celestial side of things,” he said.

“We’re just a small part of the universe,” he added.

At 1:41 p.m., the sky went dark. There was a hush, then a cheer as the clouds parted to reveal the spectacular sight of the moon perfectly centered in front of the sun. Then a hush again.

“It’s one of the longest and shortest moments of your life,” said Meg Veitch, a geologist in Alabama.

Afterward, Don Kelly walked slowly across the parking lot with a smile on his face. “I’ll have driven 12 hours and change for two seconds of eclipse,” he said. “I’d do it again tomorrow.” — RUTH GRAHAM

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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