The Great American Solar Eclipse as Seen by the GMAO


eclipse message staff location map

To experience the great eclipse of 2017, various members of the GMAO traveled to different locations around the USA: Florida, Nebraska, Tennessee, Wyoming, and South Carolina. Others chose to watch the event locally, either close to home or on campus at GSFC, where they enjoyed the events on the Goddard Mall. In the Maryland region, worrisome nuisance clouds started filling the skies as humid air built the typical summer cumulus formations; the clouds broke for the duration of the eclipse. These photos from the various viewing locations shown on the map give an overview of the GMAO’s eclipse-viewing experience.

Destination Tennessee

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Buoyed by forecasts of clear skies, several groups headed to Tennessee to view the eclipse from the path of totality. Adorned with official NASA eclipse glasses, Kris Wargan and Gary Partyka (left), along with Ron Gelaro, chose to watch from Sequoyah Lake Tellico Resort and Marina in Vonore; the Putman family (middle) joined a gathering on Sweetwater Valley Farm in Philadelphia TN; and the Cassol-Pawson family (right) made their way to Spring City, TN.

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Manuela Girotto and a few friends watched the eclipse in Maryville, TN. On a hike to Abram Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they encountered a bear, waiting for the eclipse with no safety glasses! (Photos taken by Manuela’s friend Lance Jorgensen.)

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At Sequoyah Lake, everyone watched with great anticipation until the eclipse reached totality at approximately 2:33PM.

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Jim Gass viewed the eclipse from Roane State Community College in Harriman, TN, with friends Dr. Fred Huemmrich (Code 618) and his wife Susan.

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Bill Putman summarized his family’s experience of the event. “As the moon’s shadow neared, the afternoon clouds from the heat of the day began to clear as the air began to cool. In the moments just before totality the awe and amazement were clear on my kids’ faces. For two and a half minutes of totality (a minuscule slice of time) the sun, the moon and the small patch of land we occupied for that brief moment emblazoned a memory my children will carry with them for a lifetime. Memories of the brilliant white light of the sun’s corona bursting around the black disc of the moon, the twilight across the horizon in all directions in the middle of the day, the insects and bugs awakening in the trees and cornfields, and the flock of birds flying along with the moon’s shadow across the landscape.” Bill’s 14-year-old daughter says the event was “indescribable and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced”, during totality she recalls “falling to the ground, with her hand over her mouth in total amazement.”  The opportunity to experience moments like this are rare, and the spark of intrigue and passion for discovery and understanding within our children is a precious gift we take from these events.

NASA’s generous outreach activities meant that “spare” eclipse glasses were available to numerous people who would otherwise not have been able to see the moon moving across the sun. This three-year-old boy in Spring Lake was one such example.

South Carolina

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Dan Holdaway traveled to South Carolina for the eclipse with his wife and friend, staying in Greenville. They tried to watch the eclipse at Paris Mountain State park but it was full; fortunately, a local wedding venue owner opened up his property to the public. There was a large crowd watching and although there were a few cumulus clouds around they completely cleared out about 20 minutes before totality and they had a perfect view.

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Will McCarty and wife prepping for the eclipse while two kids napped inside in McCormick, SC.

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David Mocko, viewing the eclipse in Andrews, SC, is pictured here with wife Alison, daughter Sarah and son Nicholas.


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Richard Cullather was attending the International Glaciological Society (IGS) meeting in Boulder, CO. For the eclipse, they had a bus excursion to a drive-in theater in Alliance, Nebraska (42 4' 19"N, 102 48' 23"W). It took 5 hours to get there and 8 hours to return, but Richard reports a successful trip.


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Rob Lucchesi, along with his wife Ellen, GMAO alumnus and current part-timer, Greg Walker, and NASA alumnus Glen Liston, were part of an international collection of snow and ice scientists on a little butte in Wyoming, 8 miles south-west of Powder River. Camping nearby was an astrophysicist who had come to the spot from Barcelona with his daughters. The traffic was universal in the path of totality. Everyone seems to have worn various types of safe eclipse-viewing eyewear. Rob states “For me, the biggest thrills were (1) seeing the world to the west gradually disappear, starting 60-90 seconds before totality arrived as the shadow approached, (2) being able to pick out a red solar flare from the sun (4 o-clock position) with the naked eye, and (3), witnessing what looked like a 360-degree sunset/sunrise in all directions. (1) and (3) were possible because of our position with 20-30 mile views in every direction.”

Off the Path

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eclipse viewing

Brent Smith was on eclipse watch and memorialized the occasion by taking this selfie while in Hanover, MD. Oreste Reale enjoyed the eclipse with his wife at the Patuxent Research Refuge in a beautiful natural landscape. Oreste observed that the drop of luminosity was particularly evident and birds reduced their chirping for a few minutes around 2:40PM.

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eclipse viewing

Mara Fuentes was visiting Disney World in Orlando, FL, with her family. Even though this location was not on the path of totality, the excitement of the moment is captured in this photo of her 7-year-old watching the eclipse. Mike Bosilovich’s son Ethan watches the eclipse after driver’s ed class. In other locations, even seeing a partial eclipse was not an option – Randy Koster and his wife, in Hibbing, MN, were well equipped for solar viewing with their NASA glasses, but sensibly took raincoats on their trip.

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This is the obligatory cat photo. Dr. G, of the Christoph Keller family, followed proper eclipse protocol by using official glasses.

On the Mall at Goddard

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Austin Conaty spent eclipse time with his wife and son at Goddard and Lelia Marbury felt a spiritual connection as she watched from the lawn at Goddard. She explained: “I’m sure down the line we’ll have a million different stories to tell about this experience, but one thing that will always stick with me is the fact that somewhat all across America everyone was in sync and aligned with one another much like the sun and the moon on that day.”

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eclipse viewing

In these photos provided by Allie Collow, many other GMAO staffers experienced the eclipse at Goddard, including this intrepid group, with Erica McGrath-Spangler, Robin Kovach, Patricia Castellanos, Brad Weir, and Emma Knowland. They also got to enjoy the eclipse with a projection from a telescope that was set up by one of NASA’s astronomers on the mall.

In the Shadows

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Shadows that were cast during the eclipse took on interesting crescent shapes as seen in these photos by Larry Coy, Sterling Spangler and Meta Sienkiewicz.

The Main Attraction: Eclipse

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Tim Luniewski, Richard Mollel, and Richard Cullather provided these photos of the eclipse in progress!

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