Washington D.C: (AP, AFP, Web Desk) The stars came out in the middle of the day, zoo animals ran in agitated circles, crickets chirped, birds fell silent and a chilly darkness settled upon the land Monday as the U.S. witnessed its first full-blown, coast-to-coast solar eclipse since World War I.

Millions of Americans gazed in wonder at the cosmic spectacle, with the best seats along the so-called path of totality that raced 2,600 miles (4,200 kilometers) across the continent from Oregon to South Carolina.

“It was a very primal experience,” Julie Vigeland, of Portland, Oregon, said after she was moved to tears by the sight of the sun reduced to a silvery ring of light in Salem.

It took 90 minutes for the shadow of the moon to travel across the country. Along that path, the moon blotted out the midday sun for about two wondrous minutes at any one place, eliciting oohs, aahs, whoops and shouts from people gathered in stadiums, parks and backyards.

“It was incredibly beautiful. I am moved to tears,” said Heather Riser, a 54-year-old librarian from Virginia, sitting on a blanket in Charleston’s grassy Waterfront Park where thousands had gathered to watch

Festivals, rooftop parties, weddings, camping trips and astronomy meet-ups were held nationwide for what was likely most heavily photographed and documented eclipse in modern times, thanks to the era of social media.

The blackest part of the shadow, known as totality because the Moon blocks all the Sun’s light from the Earth, began over Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 1716 GMT.

Crowds whooped and cheered at the first sign of darkness.

In Los Angeles, “oohs and aahs” emanated from the crowd of thousands gathered at the Griffith Observatory in the hills above the city as the partial eclipse began.

Many had hiked to avoid massive traffic jams. Some watchers had fashioned their own pinhole projectors out of cardboard and scotch tape. Others watched while wearing special, dark solar eclipse glasses.

The path of totality, where the sun was 100 percent obscured by the moon, was just 60 to 70 miles (96 to 113 kilometers) wide. But the rest of North America was treated to a partial eclipse, as were Central America and the upper reaches of South America.

Skies were clear along most of the route, to the relief of those who feared cloud cover would spoil the moment

 

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