Learnings from the Eclipse

Earth's Ionosphere Takes Center Stage: During totality, Earth's ionosphere, the electrically charged layer of our upper atmosphere, experienced a dramatic dip in solar radiation. This unexpected event allowed scientists to study its response in real-time, revealing its remarkable ability to adapt to rapid changes in its energy source. The data gathered during the eclipse is helping us refine models of the ionosphere's behavior, crucial for understanding how space weather events like solar storms can impact our communication systems and satellites.

Magnetic Field Mysteries Unraveled: The eclipse also presented a unique opportunity to measure Earth's magnetic field with unprecedented precision. By comparing measurements taken during totality with those under normal sunlight, researchers were able to isolate subtle changes induced by the absence of the sun's direct radiation. This data is helping us refine our understanding of how the sun influences Earth's magnetic field and how this, in turn, affects phenomena like auroras and magnetic storms.

Unveiling the Sun's Secrets: The eclipse served as a rare keyhole, unlocking the sun's hidden treasures. Scientists, equipped with telescopes and sophisticated instruments, captured the corona in exquisite detail, shedding light on its dynamic nature. They observed plasma plumes dancing in the sun's atmosphere, unraveled the secrets of coronal heating, and even glimpsed the elusive nanoflares, potential drivers of this scorching realm. This invaluable data continues to fuel research, refining our understanding of the sun and its impact on our solar system.

A Catalyst for Scientific Collaboration: The eclipse transcended national boundaries, fostering international collaboration among scientists. Astronomers from across the globe joined forces, sharing data, expertise, and resources to maximize their observations. This collaborative spirit exemplifies the power of scientific unity, pushing the frontiers of knowledge beyond borders.

Inspiring a Generation of Scientists: The eclipse wasn't just a spectacle; it was a spark. Millions of children, captivated by the celestial dance, were ignited with a passion for science. The eclipse sparked a surge in enrollment in astronomy programs and STEM initiatives, nurturing the next generation of explorers who will unravel the mysteries of the cosmos.

A Cultural Tapestry: The eclipse transcended scientific boundaries, weaving itself into the cultural fabric of North America. Native American tribes celebrated the celestial event through traditional ceremonies, connecting their ancestral wisdom with the awe-inspiring spectacle. Artists, musicians, and poets found inspiration in the eclipse, translating its essence into diverse creative expressions. This cultural tapestry serves as a reminder of the eclipse's profound impact on human imagination and creativity.

A Legacy of Innovation: The eclipse wasn't just a passive observation; it spurred innovation. Engineers developed new eclipse-viewing glasses, ensuring safe and accessible viewing for millions. Mobile apps tracked the eclipse's progress, and social media platforms buzzed with real-time updates, showcasing the power of technology to connect us to celestial events. These innovations extend beyond eclipse-chasing, paving the way for advancements in optics, communication, and citizen science.

Commercial Impact

The 2017 total solar eclipse in the US had a significant impact on travel across the country, with both positive and negative effects:

Positive Effects:

    • Boom in Tourism: Millions of people, estimated to be around 100 million, traveled to witness the eclipse, particularly in the "path of totality," where the sun was completely blocked by the moon. This led to a surge in tourism revenue for cities and towns along the path, with some businesses reporting record sales.
    • Infrastructure Development: To accommodate the influx of visitors, many areas invested in infrastructure improvements, such as road repairs and the construction of temporary campsites and viewing areas. These improvements have long-lasting benefits for the communities.
    • Community Spirit: The eclipse brought people together from all over the country, creating a sense of shared wonder and excitement. Many communities organized events and activities to celebrate the eclipse, fostering a sense of connection and local pride.

Negative Effects:

    • Traffic Congestion: The massive influx of visitors caused major traffic jams in many areas, especially on highways near the path of totality. Some travelers experienced delays of several hours, and some were even stuck in gridlock for days.
    • Accommodation Shortage: Hotels and other accommodations were quickly booked up in eclipse-viewing areas, leaving many travelers scrambling for last-minute options. Some were forced to sleep in their cars or camp in overcrowded areas.
    • Price Gouging: Some businesses took advantage of the high demand by raising prices for food, lodging, and other goods and services. This left some travelers feeling frustrated and cheated.

Overall, the 2017 eclipse had a mixed impact on travel in the US. While it led to a boost in tourism and community spirit, it also caused significant disruptions due to traffic congestion and accommodation shortages. The event highlighted the need for better planning and infrastructure to accommodate large-scale events in the future.

Here are some additional details about the travel effects of the 2017 eclipse:

    • The Federal Highway Administration estimated that the eclipse caused an additional 7 million vehicle trips on the nation's highways.
    • The Oregon Department of Transportation reported that traffic on some roads in the state increased by as much as 400%.
    • Some hotels in the path of totality were booked up months in advance, and some charged as much as $1,000 per night for a room.

The 2017 eclipse serves as a valuable case study for understanding the potential impacts of major events on travel and tourism. By learning from this experience, we can be better prepared for future events and ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.


Yes, the 2017 total solar eclipse over North America did stir up some controversy, primarily surrounding three main areas:

1. Crowdfunding and profiteering:

    • Exploiting excitement: Some individuals and businesses saw the eclipse as an opportunity for quick financial gain. They launched crowdfunding campaigns for eclipse-related projects, some with seemingly vague goals or questionable legitimacy. Concerns arose about whether these campaigns were genuine scientific endeavors or simply cash grabs.
    • Price gouging: Hotels, campsites, and even travel agencies were accused of inflating prices exorbitantly, taking advantage of the high demand and limited availability in eclipse zones. This left many eclipse enthusiasts feeling frustrated and priced out of the experience.

2. Environmental concerns:

    • Increased waste: The influx of millions of visitors inevitably led to a surge in waste generation, particularly in popular viewing areas. Concerns were raised about the impact on local ecosystems and the ability of communities to handle the additional waste effectively.
    • Ecological disruption: The large crowds also raised concerns about potential damage to fragile ecosystems and wildlife habitats, particularly in rural areas along the path of totality. Some argued that the eclipse hype overshadowed the need for responsible tourism and environmental protection.

3. Cultural appropriation:

    • Misrepresentation of Native American traditions: Some eclipse-related events and merchandise were criticized for appropriating Native American symbols and rituals without proper context or respect. This sparked concerns about the commodification of indigenous cultures and the need for greater sensitivity and understanding.

4. Access and equity:

    • Costly travel and accommodation: The high cost of travel and lodging in eclipse zones made the event inaccessible to many, particularly low-income families and individuals. This raised concerns about equity and the potential for such events to exacerbate social and economic inequalities.
    • Limited accessibility for disabled individuals: Some eclipse-viewing areas lacked proper infrastructure and amenities for people with disabilities, hindering their ability to fully participate in the event. This highlighted the need for more inclusive planning for such large-scale gatherings.

It's important to note that these controversies represent a small portion of the overall experience of the 2017 eclipse. For many, the event was a source of awe, wonder, and scientific curiosity. However, these controversies highlight the need for responsible planning, cultural sensitivity, and awareness of potential negative impacts when organizing large-scale events like the 2017 eclipse.

By learning from these experiences, we can strive to ensure that future astronomical events are not only awe-inspiring but also inclusive, sustainable, and respectful of local communities and their cultures.

Roger Sarkis