Celestial spectacle

Partial solar eclipse won't repeat in U.S. for 20 years


Muscatine County, including West Liberty, experienced a partial solar eclipse on Monday, April 8, the likes of which won’t be seen in the United States for another 20 years.

From around 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., the moon passed between the Earth and the Sun, causing it to take on a crescent-like shape for those watching (with special eye safety gear).

A good 80 percent of the sun was hidden behind the moon at the peak of the eclipse around 2 p.m. for viewers in Muscatine County, Iowa.

However, many portions of the country experienced a total solar eclipse, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Across the state of Iowa, viewers experienced 75 to 90 percent of the sun covered in the afternoon, depending on where they were located.

Although the sun wasn’t completely covered, it was visibly darker outside for around a half-hour. Thin clouds spattered across a blue sky during the beautiful 65-degree spring day.

Viewers outside of Iowa in "the path of totality" saw the moon completely block the sun — an opportunity those in North America won't have again for 20-plus years.

The duration of the total eclipse lasted 4 minutes and 27 seconds, almost double that of The Great American Eclipse of August 21, 2017.

The 2017 total solar eclipse was witnessed by about 20 million people from Oregon to South Carolina; the 2024 Great American Eclipse was witnessed by just as many.

Before the eclipse in 2017, the last total solar eclipse to cross North America was in 1979. That was the first eclipse whose path of totality crossed the entire continent in 99 years. 

The next total solar eclipse to cross North America is predicted to occur on Aug. 23, 2044, according to NASA. However, the path of totality from this eclipse will only touch three states.

As for Monday, the totality began in Texas at 1:27 p.m. CDT and moved northeast, ending in Maine at 2:35 p.m. CDT in the United States.

The moon's shadow on the Earth, called the umbra, moved at more than 1,500 miles per hour according to NASA.

The longest known totality was 7 minutes and 28 seconds in 743 B.C. according to NASA. 

NASA says this record will be broken in 2186 with a 7 minute, 29-second total solar eclipse. We’ll just have to take their word for it.