This story was originally published in Architectural Lighting.
Yesterday, Monday August 21, 2017, was the Great American Solar Eclipse. Why was it referred to as great and American? Because this was the first time in 99 years that a total solar eclipse was seen strictly over the United States as it traveled coast-to-coast crossing 14 states–from Oregon to South Carolina–and cut a 70-mile-wide path of totality, the term used for total darkness. Not since 1918 had an astronomical phenomenon of this kind taken place over the continental United States. Moreover, while the last total solar eclipse seen in the United States took place on February 26, 1979, its path also included Canada and Greenland.
Yesterday’s eclipse was hands-down impressive. As the NASA press release explained, “During those brief moments–when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face for about two minutes–day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. Birds will fly to their nighttime roosts. Nocturnal insects such as cicadas and crickets will buzz and chirp.” Even if you were not in the path of totality, such as in Washington, D.C., one could still see a partial eclipse that was still quite impressive.
The otherworldly event was seen by millions of people in person–and online. NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) provided (and continues to provide) a wealth of resources on its website including live streaming from across the country and its satellites, aircraft, balloons, and even the International Space Station, set up to view the event, in particular the sun and its corona. The eclipse was a huge opportunity for scientists to capture data and information and “…study the sun, Earth, moon and their interaction.” Aiding in the scientific data gathering, science museums across the nation, such as the Exploratorium in San Francisco also helped track and broadcast the eclipse.
In April and then ramping up at the end of June, The New York Times launched its 2017 Solar Eclipse section with a wide variety of reporting on every aspect of the event that you could imagine from how to take photos to more serious issues such as how the eclipse would affect solar power and the electric grid. The eclipse was front-page news for practically every newspaper in America. You can see the diversity of coverage by looking at the Newseum’s Today’s Front Pages section.
Closer to home, meaning the lighting design community, Architectural Lighting enlisted the help of lighting designers so that we might share different perspectives of the experience. Tom Kaczkowski, Lighting Group Director at HOK in St Louis emailed with this recount, “Just experienced the Eclipse … awesome “lighting” event … a little like the Sun was on a giant dimmer … but instead of fading to warm, it faded to cool moonlight shadows … incredible experience.”
Lighting designer Randy Burkett, President and Design Principal of St. Louis-based Randy Burkett Lighting Design traveled to the Missouri Botanical Gardens’ Shaw Nature Reserve, a 2,400 acres private nature reserve located in Gray Summit, Mo., about an hour's drive west of downtown St. Louis.
Randy emailed the following observations, “A memorable day in the sun at Shaw Nature Reserve. 93 degrees, high humidity, a pretty miserable 6 hours, gave way to joy. I was humbled one moment, enraptured the next. An indelible memory. I am already looking forward to 04.08.24.”
Architectural Lighting used social media via our Twitter account to keep track of the day’s events and see how lighting design firms and designers took in the solar eclipse across the United States. Here is a snapshot from a few individuals such as Leora Radetsky and firms Randy Burkett Lighting Design in St. Louis; Lam Partners in Cambridge, Mass.; Cooley Monato Studio in New York City; and Available Light in Salem, Mass. Please feel free to share your photos so that we can continue to update how the lighting design community witnessed the eclipse.
Finally, if for some reason you did not get a chance to see yesterday’s incredible event, don’t worry! The next total solar eclipse to take place over the United States will occur on April 8, 2024, only seven years away. It’s south-to-north trajectory, from Mexico to Canada, will be visible from U.S. cities including Dallas; Little Rock, Ark.; Indianapolis; Cleveland; Buffalo, N.Y.
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