Steve Ruskin '02Ph.D. | July 5, 2017
On Monday, August 21, 2017, America will witness one of nature’s grandest spectacles. The “Great American Eclipse,” as it is being called, will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States since 1979, when a massive shadow caused by the moon blocking the light of the sun passed over the Pacific Northwest. But this year’s eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse visible from coast to coast since 1918. Tens of millions of Americans are projected to make their way into the narrow path of the moon’s shadow — a seventy-mile wide swath of complete darkness stretching from Oregon to South Carolina — to watch the sun disappear completely for nearly three minutes over one section of the country after another.
As a child, I watched the 1979 eclipse while standing out on the blacktop of my elementary school. Years later, after I received my doctorate in history and philosophy of science from Notre Dame, I began researching an eclipse that occurred on July 29, 1878, over the Rocky Mountains. Tourists and astronomers flocked to that eclipse as well, braving the harsh conditions and high altitudes of the Western frontier in order to position themselves directly in the shadow path.