Solar Eclipse Dazzles North America For Second Time in 3 Years

By Claire Wilson 

April 9, 2024
Eclipse spectators in Put-in-Bay Ohio (Photo credit: Maddie Hordinski)

On Monday, a total solar eclipse traversed North America. For more than four hours, astronomy beginners, enthusiasts, and experts from Southern Texas to Northern Maine watched the sun pass in front of the moon. Millions of Americans migrated to the eclipse’s path during the biggest travel event of the year. ‘It will likely be the most-viewed astronomical event in American history," says co-founder of Great American Eclipse and expert eclipse cartographer, Michael Zeiler. “When you combine the populations of Mexico, USA, and Canada that live inside the path of totality, and add all of those who will travel on eclipse day, a total of 50 million North Americans witnessing totality is possible."

Because of the millions of Americans who traveled to see the eclipse, air travel was delayed and hotel prices skyrocketed. Because of a higher number of travelers, many flights were delayed. Although it is safe to fly during an eclipse, it was important for pilots to fly with caution. “I think you would probably want to treat it a lot like you would treat a big weather event,” said Mike Hillman, President of the Jets FBO Network. “If you were traveling on an impending snowstorm, this is sort of the mentality you want to take; as far as special provisions the FAA is taking, they've put out notice to the pilots that they expect delays and expect congestion.” Across the path of totality, hotel prices skyrocketed due to higher demand. According to Ben Blatt of the New York Times, “one Super 8 in Grayville, Ill., advertised $949 a night for a Sunday-Tuesday stay. Its normal advertised nightly rate is $95.” 

(Photo credit: Wyndham Hotels) 

For some, the eclipse is more than an astronomical event. It’s a chance to feel more connected to nature and the cosmos. Former astronaut Mae Jemison says, “I hope what people discover is themselves and their connectedness to the rest of the universe.” In Stowe, Vermont, a couple got engaged live on CNN during the eclipse. “True love story cemented in the darkness of a total solar eclipse now written in history," says Derek Van Dam of CNN. At the “Elope at the Eclipse” event in Russellville, Arkansas, 358 couples were married during the eclipse. “We came together, we put in a lot of hours, and a lot of logistic work like how to pick up 150 wedding cakes, how to get their marriage licences signed,” said one of the organizers. “It took all the local businesses and all the volunteers and organizations who helped it come together to make this happen, which is something we never thought we would be able to do.”

Couples watch the eclipse in Russellville Arkansas (Alex Kent)
The view of the eclipse at 41% in Arroyo Grande (Photo credit: Vivian Krug Cotton)

San Luis Obispo County was not on the path of totality for this eclipse, but residents saw a partial solar eclipse of nearly 41.6%, at 11:11 a.m., according to an interactive map by the National Solar Observatory. Many Morro Bay High School students watched the partial eclipse during nutrition, some wearing eclipse glasses, and others risking their eyesight. 

Although the last solar eclipse was only three years ago, the next one in North America will occur in more than 2 decades. For most, the eclipse lasted less than 4 minutes, but had lasting impacts on its viewers. “I would pay a million dollars to see that again,” said Houlton resident, Sebastian Pelletier.