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Sun Series: Bonus: Dispatches from the Path of Totality

Season 7Episode 8May 3, 2024

On April 8, 2024, North America experienced its last total solar eclipse until the 2040s. As the Moon’s shadow fell across the U.S., NASA sent Curious Universe producers out into the field across the path of totality to talk to space nerds and eclipse scientists. In this special bonus episode of our Sun Series, we’ll relive the special day together.

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Sun Series: Bonus: Dispatches from the Path of Totality | About the Episode

On April 8, 2024, North America experienced its last total solar eclipse until the 2040s. As the Moon’s shadow fell across the U.S., NASA sent Curious Universe producers out into the field across the path of totality to talk to space nerds and eclipse scientists. In this special bonus episode of our Sun Series, we’ll relive the special day together. 


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HOST PADI BOYD: Hey space nerds! We hope you enjoyed the grand finale of our Sun series last week. But we couldn’t get enough of the Sun, so today, we’re back with a little treat… a bonus episode!  


[THEME MUSIC: Curiosity by SYSTEM Sounds] 

PADI: This is NASA’s Curious Universe. Our Universe is a wild and wonderful place. I’m your host, Padi Boyd… 


CO-HOST JACOB PINTER: And I’m your co-host, Jacob Pinter. And in this podcast, NASA is your tour guide.  


PADI: On April 8, a total solar eclipse passed over North America. 40 million people tuned in to watch NASA’s live streams, and millions more traveled to the path of totality themselves to experience it in person. 


JACOB: And you better believe we weren’t going to miss it. Our audio team fanned out across the U.S. … from Texas to Ohio… to bring back dispatches from the path of totality. Today, we’ll hear from space nerds we met in the wild. 


PADI: We hope you enjoy reliving the special day with us, whether you got to see the eclipse in person or experience it through NASA’s live broadcast. And to kick off the celebration, here’s Christian Elliott, Curious Universe producer. 




PADI: Christian, we sent you to Texas for the eclipse, right? 


CHRISTIAN: That’s right! Like millions of people across the country, I was on a pilgrimage to the path of totality… flying and then driving hundreds of miles to experience what I hoped would be a four and a half minutes of magic and the best shot in the country at clear weather, according to long-term forecasts at least. 


Christian: This is Christian Elliott, Curious Universe producer. It’s Saturday, April 6. I’m in Dallas, Texas and just got in the rental car to drive down to Kerrville, Texas, which is five hours south, where we’re going to be for totality. 


CHRISTIAN: My partner, Summer was with me, we had plenty of snacks for the drive… 


[SFX: Car door shuts, engine turns starts] 


Summer: Sure, I’d love to do a haul. Oh, I didn’t even see these go in the bag. Uh, here we have some dark chocolate covered espresso beans… We’ve got our latte in a can… Ooh I forgot about these… 


PADI: Sounds like you had plenty of caffeine… 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, for that drive, it was necessary. I was a day early – since I was reporting for NASA, I wanted to capture all the leadup for this big celestial event.  


Summer: Are we going the wrong way on a one way? 


Christian: I hope not, but maybe? 


CHRISTIAN: And anyway, eventually I reached the flowery rolling hills of southern Texas and the Kerrville Folk Festival. 


[MUSIC: Southern Trail by Joseph Skye]  


JACOB: The Kerrville Folk Festival sounds like a music festival, which is not a bad place to watch the eclipse! 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, so my first stop was this music festival. It was at a ranch just outside the tiny town of Kerrville. It’s an annual event, but this year they were calling it the “Kerrclipse” festival.  


Christian: Good morning 


Gate attendant: How’s it going? 


Christian: Good, I’m headed over to the meadow area, the “big meadow” area to do an interview? 


Gate attendant: Wristbands? 


Christian: Yeah, wristbands. 


Gate attendant: Alright, the meadow is that way. 


CHRISTIAN: Now, for a lot of people, an eclipse is an amazing, emotional thing to see. You might make plans weeks in advance to get to totality and see it, just like these festival goers had. But I was there to meet scientists. And for them, it’s serious business. They make plans years in advance and set up all this scientific equipment for a brief, few minute glimpse at the Sun’s atmosphere, its corona. They travel the world following the Moon’s shadow. And each time, they only get one shot at getting it right. 


[SFX: Car locks, footsteps on gravel] 


CHRISTIAN: Amid the guitar circles and tents, we ducked under a rope and eventually found Ben Boe. 


Benjamin Boe: Hello, Christian?  


Christian: Yes. 


Ben: I’m Ben. Good to meet you.  


Christian: Good to meet you too.  


Ben: How’s it going?  


Christian: Pretty good. 


Ben: Yeah? 


CHRISTIAN: Ben’s a solar physicist who studies eclipses… this is his sixth one. He’s been to places like Antarctica to view them. He works with this 40-person team of scientists from across the world. 


Ben: Over here this is just our base camp, you know, the human element of things. This is our observing tent… 


[MUSIC: Crosstalk by Kish] 


CHRISTIAN: Ben led me into the big, green, roofless tent full of equipment… sixteen telescopes with solar filters split between two stands, tables covered with laptops, each one showing an image of the Sun from each of the telescopes. 


Ben: So anyway, here we have two mounts. Each of these has eight telescopes. Each one of these telescopes is doing a slightly different thing. 


Christian: Sure, and can I come in there if I take my shoes off? 


Ben: Yeah. Please do, and then you can come in. 


CHRISTIAN: Each telescope stand, holding eight telescopes in a custom metal frame off to one side, had this long orange cylinder way off to the other side, like a waiter balancing a tray of drinks. 


Christian: That looks like a serious counterweight. 


Ben: Yeah so this counterweight is just PVC pipe. And then we just go to our location and look around for rocks. And this is just full of rocks right now.  


Christian: Local Texas rocks. 


Ben:  Local Texas rocks are our counterweights… Then those cables are run to a set of laptops. So, we have each laptop runs each pair of telescopes… 


Christian: I was gonna say, lots of laptops  


Ben: Yes, lots of laptops. TSA usually doesn’t like us very much because they’re like, “You have how many laptops?” 


CHRISTIAN: With all these instruments, Ben’s team was set up to get a look at the Sun’s corona that’s impossible outside of an eclipse.  


PADI:  This is super cool, but I know from experience that when you’re watching an eclipse on the ground, you can know the right place to be at the right time years in advance, but it all comes down to getting clear weather on the big day… 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, you’re right, and unfortunately, the weather report was not looking good here. Ben had chosen Texas Hill Country for the same reason I had… because long term forecasts predicted clear skies. But now it was cloudy. 


Christian: So how important is it to get clear skies tomorrow for this stuff here? 


Ben: Yeah, so that’s the one major downside to being here on the ground is that we really are at the mercy of what the atmosphere would like to give us. With the eclipse, you get that one shot every year, year and a half or so. And so, for us, we get very sad when there’s clouds because it does definitely tamper the data. 


CHRISTIAN: They had clear skies when they set everything up, but today when they hoped to calibrate the equipment, it was cloudy. But luckily, they had a couple of backup plans. For starters, there were two other teams like Ben’s stationed on the ground with telescope setups in Mexico and Arkansas… 


Ben: But even if our three ground stations, you know, hypothetically all three could be clouded out, it’s not impossible that that happens. Uh, but that’s why we also have the kite mission which is in southern Texas. 


JACOB: Uh, Christian, can you explain this kite mission? 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, this is their other ace in the hole. They were gonna try to fly a huge kite with instruments on it way up above the clouds. 


[MUSIC: Spring of Life by Kish] 


Ben: Uh, it actually looks kind of similar to the classic drawing you see of Benjamin Franklin with the key on the kite, it’s a bit like that where there’s a large kite at the top then the key is like the instrument hanging partway down and then there’s a long cable that runs to the ground.  


CHRISTIAN: Only this kite was flying over a mile in the air. And if that wasn’t high enough, NASA was planning to fly its two WB-57 research planes even higher. The idea was that someone, somewhere would be able to see the Sun no matter the weather! Since they only have one shot at this every 18 months or so, they can’t leave anything up to chance. And this team chases eclipses for science, but of course, they also do it because they love it! 


Ben: My favorite Eclipse so far that I’ve seen was 2017, and I saw the corona stretching across the sky and I had this really profound moment of feeling like I was in the solar system. I could really see it all laid out before me. And it was no longer some abstract idea that some schoolteacher draws on a blackboard and says, “This is how it is,” and you go, “OK, sure.” It was there, it was just, it was this very powerful emotional moment, even I’m getting emotional thinking about it… 


CHRISTIAN: For some team members, this would be their first eclipse. I talked to one researcher who’d just flown in from Hawaii.  


Ellie Toguchi-Tani: Being from Hawaii you’re kind of always surrounded by astronomy. It’s kind of just like deeply rooted in our culture… 


CHRISTIAN: She had some nerves leading up to this… this day had been on her calendar for so long, and it would all come down to a few critical minutes of science. 


Ellie: I’m in charge of the computers for this telescope here and it’ll, since it’ll be my first eclipse, I’m really worried that I’ll start crying and won’t be able to press the right buttons, but I’m sure it’ll be okay.  


Christian: I’m sure it will. 


Ellie: I’m sure, I’m sure it’ll be fine. 


CHRISTIAN: And just before I left, the clouds cleared a bit and the team jumped into action calibrating instruments. 


Ben: We might have just lucked out right now. Uh, no, I’m gonna put these on here… 


CHRISTIAN: I made myself scarce and let them work. 


Ben: I want that hole, right there. Why can’t that just be over us all day? 


PADI: So where did you go next? 


CHRISTIAN: Then I headed from this ranch over the rolling hills and into the town of Kerrville to Schreiner University to meet another scientist. 


Alan Hale: Stairs and me have an interesting relationship now.  


Christian: [Laughs] 


Alan: This is where Shreiner put us up for four nights.  


Christian: Not a bad… 


Alan: Not at all.  


Christian: Not a bad spot. 


Alan: Not at all. 


CHRISTIAN: He was staying at a little cabin behind an observatory. 


Alan: My name is Alan Hale. Most people know me, my name at least, because of a certain bright comet that was in the sky a quarter century ago. That time has long gone. 


PADI: Alan Hale – THE Alan Hale? Who co-discovered comet Hale-Bopp? He’s pretty famous! 


[MUSIC: Curiosity by Doddy] 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, exactly! It’s a good story. He got into comets as a kid, he’s observed some 700 comets throughout his life. And when he was younger, he was putting in hundreds of hours trying to discover a comet of his own, just scanning the sky every night. Then he gave up. Until one night in 1995, when he started looking again on a whim. 


Alan: It’s gorgeous night. I mean, I’m at 7000 feet, no light pollution. I’m going to just kill some time by looking at some objects in the sky. So, I turn my telescope to a globular star cluster near Sagittarius named M70. I notice something right next to it immediately… 


CHRISTIAN: It was a brand-new comet!  


Alan: One of my favorite quotes is from Isaac Asimov: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science is not, ‘Eureka, I found it,’ but, ‘That’s funny.’” 


Christian: [Laughs]  


CHRISTIAN: Alan got to name it, and when it got closer to the Sun, it turned out to be super bright. There’s this comet scientist saying, “Bet on a horse, not on a comet.” They’re unpredictable, they can fizzle out or explode, or just end up being very dim. Well, it’s a good thing Alan bet on that comet. Because everybody could see it… and discovering it changed his life. 


Alan: It made my life very interesting… 


Christian: I bet. 


Alan: For quite a while. I mean it got to the point where I turned the ringer off all the phones in the house… 


CHRISTIAN: He met the vice president, he was on the Today show, flying city to city and meeting astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and Star Trek stars like Patrick Stewart… Hale Bopp launched his career. 


Alan: Well, I mean, lots of people discover comets, but no one, you know, discovering something like that. That, even to this day has probably been seen by more people than any comet in history… But now, that was 25 years ago. Now. I’m a question on Jeopardy. 


Christian: [Laughs] 


[MUSIC: Restless Jungle by Kish] 


CHRISTIAN: Now things are different… most comets get discovered by automatic survey programs, not by eye from backyard telescopes, by folks like Alan scanning the skies. But he hasn’t given up, and he was here do something pretty unique… to try to spot a sungrazing comet from the ground during an eclipse. 


JACOB: Sungrazers are those comets that we heard about earlier in the series… the ones that the SOHO observatory in space can spot. So, Alan was trying to see one from the ground? 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah exactly. He was working closely with Karl Battams, the scientist who runs the Sungrazer citizen science project that we talked to earlier in our series. He had orbital experts lined up to measure the positions and tell Alan where to point his telescope. This is important research because we don’t have that many good ground observations of sungrazers to calibrate SOHO’s detections from space. 


Alan: Plus, I just think it would be cool to see a comet during totality. 


Christian: [Laughs] 


CHRISTIAN: He’d been trying since the ‘70s and hadn’t found one yet.  


Alan: The timing has never worked. The timing has to be almost perfect. We have to have a sungrazer appear so that it’s bright and close to the Sun during totality. And then they move in, they disintegrate. So, there’s a very narrow window when one of these is visible. And it just has never worked… 


JACOB: So, it was a long shot? 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, it definitely was, but Alan saw this as his last best chance. He’s getting older and doesn’t travel much. And of course the next eclipse in the U.S. is decades away. So, I wished him luck and headed out.  


PADI: Wow, it’s pretty cool to know that while everybody was looking up at the Sun and Moon during the eclipse, there were all these scientists looking up too, and trying to discover new things! 


JACOB: We we’ve got these scientists, they’re all ready to go. And on the actual eclipse day, Christian, I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I know that you made a last-minute change in your plans. 


[MUSIC: Working Progress by Kish] 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, funny story… You know how earlier in this series Fred Espenak, AKA Mr. Eclipse, he said that to be an eclipse chaser you have to be ready to drive hours right before the eclipse to run from bad weather? 


Christian: It’s April 8, the day of the eclipse. Um, there’s been a change of plans… 


[SFX: Weedwhackers and hedge trimmers running] 


CHRISTIAN: Well, the weather forecast was looking pretty stormy in Kerrville for eclipse day, so I made a rash decision…  


Christian: Late last night, drove up to Dallas from Kerrville, which was five hours, and got up here pretty late and just met up with the NASA broadcast team here in Dallas at the Dallas Arboretum. I feel like a true Eclipse chaser now. 


CHRISTIAN: And I was just one thread of this story… NASA had hundreds of scientists and communications staff spread throughout the country in 14 locations we were calling “Sun Spots.”  And so, we’re about to hear dispatches from the path of totality. And why don’t we start with you, Jacob? While I was dodging leaf blowers in the early morning at the arboretum in Dallas, you were also on your way to totality, right? 


JACOB: I was! I ended up in Paris! Paris, Arkansas. It’s a town of 3,000-some people. The City of Lights, but smaller. And for the eclipse, they were prepared for at least that many visitors. Paris is a couple of hours from where I grew up… so I drove there with my dad and some other family. We strolled around the little downtown area. You know, it’s one of those picturesque town squares with a county courthouse in the middle, and then surrounded by stores and restaurants. And they also have fun with the name “Paris”.  


Jacob Pinter: Okay Dad, talk to me… 


Frank Pinter: Uh oh. 


Jacob: Where are we and what’s going on? 


Frank: We are standing right next to the Eiffel Tower replica all 12 feet of it… 


Jacob: It could have been there first. I mean, we don’t know.  


Frank: Well, that’s true. That’s entirely possible, that Paris, France borrowed the idea from Paris, Arkansas. But placing no bets. And the skies are looking very favorable, high clouds. There’s even a pancake breakfast on the other side of the square for those that are needing to satisfy a breakfast hunger… 


[MUSIC: Jump in Place by Doddy] 


CHRISTIAN: Well, a few hundred miles northeast of you, my parents were doing just that… 


Laurie: It’s 7:30 on Monday morning, eclipse day. We’re in Mary Lou’s Cafe. The eggs are sizzling on the grill. Biscuits and gravy are in high demand. You can smell the coffee. And the waitress is peddling eclipse shirts along with your coffee, pancakes and orange juice. 


CHRISTIAN: They’d listened to our Sun series and gotten really excited about the eclipse as we covered it, and so they decided to drive six hours south to Carbondale, Illinois to be in the path of totality! So, I deputized them as honorary field reporters for the day. 


JACOB: Christian, tell your parents they’re naturals on the radio.  

I will say, where I was, we also had good t-shirts. I brought one home that said, “I got mooned in Paris, Arkansas”.  


CHRISTIAN: That’s a good one. I got one that looks like a band tour shirt and lists all the cities in totality.  


PADI: I have that same t-shirt! It glows in the dark if you don’t know. 


JACOB: Ooh. 


PADI: I didn’t realize that until I wore it as pajamas one night. I was like, “Woah.” 


JACOB: [Laughs] 


[MUSIC: Jump in Place by Doddy] 


JACOB: I will also say, where I was, there was music, there were food trucks. Just a festive vibe all around. It was a party! 


Frank: Even the great folks of Paris put up little commemorative flags commemorating the event for the total eclipse on their lampposts all throughout the square. So, the town is all in on the event and it’s a lot of fun to see and growing excitement as we get closer. 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, it was the same in Carbondale, at Southern Illinois University’s Saluki Stadium… 


Laurie: It’s 8:30 and we’ve just arrived at the stadium at Southern Illinois University. There’s a lot of decorated vehicles here. The one right next to me says, “Future NASA Employee, Totality or Bust.” 


PADI: OK we’ve got Arkansas, Illinois, Texas–that’s where I was, at the Cotton Bowl, with a science-themed vibe with NOAA and NASA, talking to lots of kids It was very exciting! Did we have anyone else out in the field? 


JACOB: Yeah, NASA held events all across the path of totality. Miles Hatfield was at the one that I had the most FOMO about. He’s a writer on our Sun science team.  And he was watching the eclipse from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway… home of the Indy 500. 


[SFX: Marching band plays a song] 


Miles: It’s now 11:15. A little under four hours until totality reaches Indianapolis, and this place is jammin’. 


[SFX: Race cars rev their engines] 


Miles: OK, they’re about to do a lap! 


[SFX: Race cars zoom by] 


Miles: I haven’t gotten the final numbers, but the last estimate was something like 50,000 people are going to be here. And it is so wild because, you know, people are filling up the stands. And it’s all about looking up at the Sun. It’s like this huge sporting event that’s just happening in the cosmos. It’s really cool to look at… 


[MUSIC: Nico’s Journey by Smith] 


CHRISTIAN: It was also a sports event atmosphere in Illinois where my parents were. 


Laurie: It’s a gorgeous day. The sun is shining. birds are chirping in the trees. Crowds have just entered the stadium within the last 15 minutes. The stage is set up. There’ll be lots of presentations. NASA has a presence here. And we’re all very excited for the upcoming eclipse! 


CHRISTIAN: And as people started to flood into all these NASA events, Jacob and I started talking with folks. 


JACOB: Just like us, they’d spent many hours in the car to get to totality. 


Jacob: How far of a drive is that? 


Woman #1: Seven hours? Seven, eight hours total… 


Man #1: It’s about a six-hour drive. So, it’s an easy decision… 


Man #2: And drove all the way from Virginia Beach. So, an 11-hour drive, stopping a couple of times… 


JACOB: Where I was, there was a map of the U.S. where people could mark where they came from. There were dots all over the country… and some from even farther away, 


Woman #2: But, I just think it’s fascinating that so many people, I mean, look at the map of where people came from…  


Jacob: It’s all over. 


Woman #2: It’s just fantastic. 


Woman #3: And then we have two friends in from Germany… 


Man #3: Just visiting friends and secondly for the eclipse. 


Woman #2: Sweden… 


Woman #4: We had from France, uh, there was Sweden, the Czech Republic… 


Man #4: They’re from… 


Woman #5: I live in Prague, Czech Republic. 


Jacob: OK! Well, you get the most frequent flier miles, I guess. 


Woman #5: Also lives in Prague, but a Slovak citizen. 


Jacob: Cool. 


PADI: So, had many of these people seen an eclipse before? 


CHRISTIAN: A couple, we ran into some old timers, but mostly it was a lot of first-timers. And I have to say, everyone I talked to knew a LOT about eclipses… like much more than I knew before we started making this series! 


JACOB: I had the same impression. In Paris, I met some younger space explorers. Apparently a local news outlet was sponsoring a costume contest. I saw one teenager with a homemade half-Moon, half-Sun outfit. She had painted her face half-and-half too. And there were younger kids in snazzy astronaut costumes… right down to the NASA patch on the chest.  


[MUSIC: Sepia Starlight by Kish] 


Jacob: Tell me about what’s going to happen today. Like what have you heard? 


Kid #1: I’ve heard that there’s going to be a eclipse today. 


Jacob: And what does that mean? 


Kid #1: It means the Moon goes in front of the Sun. 


Jacob: And are you excited for that? 


Kid #1: Yes, very excited. 


Jacob: Why? 


Kid #1: Because it’s gonna be all dark.  


Jacob: Yeah? 


Kid #1: And it’s probably my first time seeing it.  


Jacob: Yeah? It’s my first time too. 


CHRISTIAN: I met a few well-informed kids too… 


Kid #2: NASA, NASA, I love NASA! 


Man #5: Yeah, he wants to be a little astronaut, so it’s perfect for him. 


Summer: What do you think’s gonna happen when, when the eclipse happens? 


Kid #2: I don’t know what’ll happen if the…  


Kid #3: The birds will go wild. 


Kid #2: Yeah, and also, there’s gonna be blackout.  


Jacob: so why did you why did you dress up in your astronaut uniform today? 


Kid #4: Because I’m gonna go to the Moon. 


Jacob: You’re going to the moon? No way! Uh, when? 


Kid #4: Uh, tomorrow. 


Jacob: That sounds great, can I come with you? 


Kid #4: Yes. 


Jacob: [Laughs] 


JACOB: A lot of people I met had been aware of the eclipse for months… or even years. And they knew exactly what to expect: the change in temperature… the strange animal behavior. I didn’t notice anybody looking at the Sun without eclipse glasses, which really warmed my heart. I was just impressed by how ready people were to soak it all in.   


Kid #5: Well, I’ve heard, that, from NASA, you know, it says it’s gonna get dark, and stuff like that… 


Woman #6: From what I hear, and you probably know more about it than I do that the temperature is going to change about 20 degrees, if you’re wearing green and red, that that you know, color will look different to you…  


Woman #7: It freaks out the bees, it freaks out the birds, it freaks out… 


Man #6: I’m just looking forward to seeing like, the magic everyone talks about… 


Woman #8: I don’t know, just like the energy of this eclipse. I feel like I could benefit from it, whatever, it is. 


Woman #9: I think you know, just to have some quiet, have all the lights out and experience it with all these other people. And you know, I’m really excited to hear the oohs and the aahs and that’s the thing I’m looking forward to most.  


CHRISTIAN: And it sounds like it was clear where you were Jacob, but I gotta say, I was running from clouds already by going to Dallas, and then that morning it was still not looking good! The clouds kept coming in, more and more, and people were stressing about it. 


PADI: It really was stressful. Because so many people were trying to make that last minute decision: Should I stay, or should I go? 


Man #7: Anyway, I’m sure someone around here somewhere will get a good look.  


Christian: I’m really hoping it’s us. 


Man #7: Right, right. It may be a mile over, it may be right here, it’s just where the cumulus clouds end up right you know so… 


CHRISTIAN: It took a couple of hours for the moon to move over the Sun. Any time there was a gap in the clouds everyone would look up with their glasses on.  


Man #8: If the sky stays this way, I will thank NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Center… 


Christian: Yep. 


JACOB: So, we were talking to folks, finding space nerds out in the wild, and then we all settled down to just experience totality, in Dallas, Paris, in Carbondale and Indianapolis… 


CHRISTIAN: And now we’ll let the experience speak for itself… the eclipse through the eyes… and ears… of NASA… 


Miles: The time is now 254. We’re a little, little over 10 minutes until the total solar eclipse. They’ve opened up a track so that people can stand on the Speedway and watch the total solar eclipse… 


Steven Logan: We’re here in Cleveland, we’re just waiting for totality to hit…  


PADI: That’s Steven Logan, a producer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. He agreed to record for us too! 


Steven: Everybody’s gathered and waiting, the energy in the atmosphere is something I’ve never experienced before. It’s starting to get chilly. And we’re starting the countdown here in a little bit for complete totality… 


Laurie: We are about five minutes until totality now here in Carbondale. There’s 15 thousand people in this stadium. Everybody’s looking up, everybody’s still got their glasses on, everybody’s anticipating the moment when they can take them off. 


[MUSIC: Brilliant Dream by Kish] 


Announcer: We’re getting close. 


Christian: What are your thoughts at the moment, Summer? 


Summer: I wish the clouds would move… 


PADI: Folks in Dallas had been stressing about the clouds, and just before totality, as the Moon covered up more and more of the Sun, they cleared! 


Announcer: Put your glasses on and look up again. We are eight minutes from totality. Ahis morning, we promised you clear skies for totality. And you look we’re keeping it! We’re keeping it here… 


Christian: They told us the clouds would maybe go away… 


Summer: They did, they completely went away, like around just where we’re lookin’. 


PADI: All over, people felt the temperature drop, and the sky turn steely blue, and the colors change, and the horizon turn red orange in all directions.  


Miles: Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s suddenly getting dark, like much faster. Oh my God, this is crazy. 


Steven: The lights are starting to flicker because they can’t decide if they should turn on or off… 


Christian: It’s feeling a lot cooler. 


Summer: You’re feeling a lot cooler? 


Christian: I am, this is great. 


Summer: [Laughs] 


Steven: We’ve lost about 10 degrees. It’s so much cooler. it almost feels like nighttime or evening. It’s amazing how much cooler it’s gotten already. 


And they kept an eye out for animals acting strangely… 


Jacob: We’re I think four or five minutes away from totality. It’s definitely darker. It’s definitely cooler. Animals are moving around. I think all the people are sitting still watching and getting ready. 


Christian: There goes a grackle. 


Summer: Is it going home? 


Christian: Maybe it’s going to bed. Oh, it’s just perched on top of that tree to better see the eclipse I think… 


Summer: He’s got a good view. 


Miles: It’s now three o’clock. We’re out on the track. People are sitting down laying down with their families. There are thousands of people out here and it’s so cool because everyone is just looking up… 


Steven: About three minutes away from totality. Only a sliver of the Sun is left everybody has kind of just staring up waiting for it to take over here, people are starting to get quiet… 


Summer:  Just a teeny, teeny, tiny little sliver… 


Jacob: Not looking at my watch, but the Sun is just a really small sliver. I think it must be Baily’s Beads soon… 


Miles: Just a tiny sliver now. 


PADI: And then, the Moon fully and perfectly eclipsed the Sun. 


Miles: Woah. Woah. Woah. This is crazy. 

PADI: Blocking the photosphere, plunging the world into darkness for up to four and a half minutes, depending on where you were in the path of totality… And there’s not much you can do except cheer. 


Miles: This is crazy. 


[SFX: Cheers and applause] 


Miles: This is crazy. Woah. This is completely nuts. 


Jacob: [Laughs] 


Kid #5: Woah, woah! 


Announcer: Oh my goodness, this is incredible! 


Steven: This is absolutely incredible. 


Miles: This is, this is nuts. This is completely nuts. 


Jacob: [Laughs] 


Miles: Yes, you can look at it now!  


Kid #5: Dang! 


Woman #10: Look at the rings coming out of the Sun! 


Kid #6: I can’t see with my glasses. 


Kid #5: It’s so beautiful! 


Miles: Yeah, your eclipse glasses don’t work anymore, you can look with your eyes! 


Kid #6: It’s like nighttime! 


Woman #11: You can look without your glasses, right? 


Jacob: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 


Miles: This is as if it was eight o’clock at night. 


Jacob: It’s the corona. It’s the outer layer that you can’t see normally.  


Miles: I can see the chromosphere. I can see a bright red spot peeking out from the corona.  


Kid #6: It’s nighttime! It feels like nighttime! 


Miles: Wow. Wow. 


Kid #7: Is there something going on? The Moon cover up the Sun. 


Steven: Yeah! Isn’t that crazy? 


Steven: This is truly almost a spiritual experience. This is truly next level, something I’ve never had the privilege to be a part of and something I definitely will never forget… 


PADI: And then as quickly as it had started, it was over… the Sun came back, like a dimmer switch had been pushed back up. 


Steven: Here we go, the Sun’s starting to come back out, light’s starting to pick back up. It looks like a sliver of fire in the sky. 


Announcer: You will see the sun beginning to emerge from the other side of the Moon… 


PADI: At every location, people cheered again, like they were welcoming the Sun back. 


[SFX: Cheers, whistles and applause] 


Announcer: Make sure you have your glasses back on if you’re looking up at the Sun now, since it’s back out. 


Christian: That did go by really fast. 


Summer: Now it’s just light again? 


 Christian: Now it’s just light again! 


Miles: It’s like someone just turned on the lights again. It’s so wild. 


Announcer: Thank you to the weather, whoever was responsible for that. 


Miles: everybody’s so excited there’s so much like nervous energy everybody’s like jumping around. Oh wow. Well, I gotta say, I’ve been writing about the sun since 2017. This is my first eclipse and now I see what all the fuss is about. Wow. 


CHRISTIAN: It was like nothing I have ever seen, it was unreal. It’s kind of hard to describe. So Jacob, Miles, Steven and I, we all tried to get folks to do our job for us… 


Jacob: Madea, right? 


Woman #12: Yes! 


Jacob: Can I bother you again?  


Woman #12: Oh my gosh of course.  


Jacob: I just want to know what you thought. 


Woman #12: That was probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life, like loved it…  


Christian: I gotta ask you guys since I found you again, how was it? 


Man #6: Oh my God, that was insane. It was insane. I have no words. I mean, I’m still in shock… 


Kid #8: It should have been longer. The universe should have made it longer. 


Jacob: Alright dad, last time I’m going to bother you, I promise. What did you think?  


Frank: Uh, absolutely spectacular to see in person and just the photos that we’ve all seen all our lives just don’t do it justice to being there in person, but great cooperation for mother nature, just a few high clouds that did not interfere to the naked eye viewing and really just, uh, really neat. Get another chance and maybe 20 years apparently but not banking on it being as good as this. This was awesome. 


Jacob: I thought so too. Thanks, Paris. 


Frank: From Paris with love… 


Jacob: From Paris with love. 


Frank: [Laughs] 


[MUSIC: On the Mellow Road by Joseph Skye] 


JACOB: Christian, after listening back, I think both of our parents were sold on eclipses after this. 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I am too. You know, we kept getting told that the first thing you say after totality is, “Where’s the next one,” and I am feeling that. I’m looking at maybe Spain in 2026? Just seems like waiting until 2044 would be way too long. 


PADI: An eclipse chaser is born! Christian, I have to ask, you lucked out with the weather, but how were things in Kerrville? Did you make the right call? 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I heard from Ben and Alan afterward… unfortunately it did stay clouded over there, so Ben’s team couldn’t get data and although there was a sungrazer spotted during the eclipse, Alan didn’t see it. Hopefully he’ll get another chance. 


CHRISTIAN: But there was some good news for scientists! NASA is still combing through all the data we collected during the eclipse, but we know the research planes and sounding rockets all got clear views of the Sun, so there should be plenty to study! And citizen science was a huge success for this eclipse. A project called SunSketcher collected photos of Baily’s Beads from 32,000 cell phones during totality, which will help scientists calculate the Sun’s size and shape with more accuracy than ever before. And the Eclipse Soundscapes team received recordings of habitats from 700 Audio Moth devices set up by citizen scientists across the country, which is way more than the team was expecting, and another 7,000 people sent them observations. 


PADI: What a unifying experience to know that millions of people are stopping what they do on an ordinary day and looking up to watch this amazing, coincidental, beautiful cosmic experience, together. 


CHRISTIAN: Totally. 


JACOB: You know guys, I felt a lot of comradery just sitting on some concrete steps with a bunch of strangers all looking up into the sky together, and I’d like if it we could all do that more often. 


PADI: Thank you, Jacob, thank you Christian! 


CHRISTIAN: Yeah, thank you Padi, I’m so glad I got to see the eclipse. 


JACOB: Of course, it was so much fun. 


PADI: And thank you for listening to our Sun Series. Although the eclipse is over, the Sun definitely isn’t going anywhere, and neither are we. We’ll be back in your feed soon, with more stories from NASA and across our wild and wonderful universe. 


[THEME MUSIC: Curiosity by SYSTEM Sounds]  


This is NASA’s Curious Universe. This episode was written and produced by Christian Elliott.   


PADI: Our executive producer is Katie Konans. The Curious Universe team includes Jacob Pinter, Julia Tilton, Maddie Olson, and Micheala Sosby. Krystofer Kim is our amazing show artist. Our theme song was composed by the creative Matt Russo and Andrew Santaguida of SYSTEM Sounds.    


JACOB: Special thanks to our eclipse field correspondents, Miles Hatfield, Steven Logan, and especially Laurie Elliott, who really has a future in this business. Thanks also to the NASA heliophysics communications team for working with us on this Sun series. And, as always, we are so grateful for you… for listening… and just for being a space nerd. 


PADI: If you enjoyed this episode of NASA’s Curious Universe, please let us know by leaving us a review and sharing the show with a friend. And, remember, you can follow NASA’s Curious Universe in your favorite podcast app to get a notification each time we post a new episode.   


[NASA AUDIO TAG: Three, two, one. This is an official NASA podcast.]  


CHRISTIAN: You know, once I took my shoes off to go into the telescope tent, everybody wanted to talk to the guy with the NASA logo socks. 


Scientist #1: Spiders everywhere. Nice socks. 


Christian: Yep, representing. 


Scientist #1: Love it. 


Christian: Uh, my name’s Christian… 


Scientist #2: Christian, nice to meet you. 


Christian: NASA Goddard, audio producer… 


Scientist #2: And I love your NASA… was it you that had the NASA socks? 


Christian: I’ve got the NASA socks on, yep… 


Scientist #2: Fabulous. 


Scientist #1: He’s taking a picture of your socks. 


[SFX: Camera shutter] 


Christian: Oh. 


Scientist #1: Gotta represent. 


Still curious about the Sun?  

Hey space nerds! Thanks for listening to our Sun series and this special bonus episode.

After the eclipse, we followed up with the NASA scientists featured throughout our Sun series to see how their eclipse experiences went. And they all wanted to thank you, space nerds, for coming along for the ride. Here’s what they had to say.

  • Joe Westlake, NASA’s Division Director for Heliophysics
    • (Joe appeared in Episode 1 of our Sun Series, The Sun, Our Star):
    • Totality is just a life changing experience. It really, really changes your perspective. It allows you to see things with your naked eye that you’ve never been able to see, like the solar atmosphere, and allows you to understand celestial objects as being something that you can connect to. And I hadn’t really appreciated that until I sat and watched it from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. I really want to thank the listeners. I want to thank all the folks that that got engaged in the physics and the science of our Sun. And it’s really amazing to see the reaction that we’ve had to the eclipse. I want to thank folks for following Curious Universe. Thank you for coming along on this journey with us. We’re really excited to have the public and so many curious listeners along with us. 


  • Liz Macdonald, Head of Citizen Science for Heliophysics at NASA
    • (Liz appeared in Episode 3 of our Sun Series, You, (Yes, You!) Can Help NASA Study the Sun):
    • I’m very excited about the citizen science results. Those were taken by people all across the path of totality, and only a few of those sites were clouded out. So, I offer my thanks and thanks on behalf of all of NASA. Because, you know, you have to make a choice to participate in science and take a little bit of your time from just enjoying it to be being a participant. And so, we really appreciate people who made that extra effort, and I know that we will learn new things. It’s definitely going to pay off in terms of this being the most imaged and measured eclipse yet. 


  • Trae Winter and MaryKay Severino, the Eclipse Soundscapes citizen science project leads
    • (Trae and MaryKay appeared in Episode 3 of our Sun Series, You, (Yes, You!) Can Help NASA Study the Sun):
    • MaryKay: “We definitely heard birds get a little bit noisier and then all of a sudden, quiet down. And after totality, started to hear birds come out and chirp and they went wild for about 30 minutes after totality really seemed to be riled up as if it was the start of a new day!” 
    • Trae: “I would have considered success, you know, several hundred people if they were deeply engaged! But everybody wanted to learn more about the science and how eclipses impact life on Earth, and also to not just passively experience an Eclipse, but to be an active researcher, a scientist for a day, and do something real with their Eclipse experience. And I think that is just incredible.” 


  • Kelly Korreck, Program Manager for the 2024 total solar eclipse at NASA
    • (Kelly appeared in Episode 2 of our Sun Series: How to Experience a Total Solar Eclipse):
      • “To all of our new heliophysicists, new folks who are interested in the Sun, who’ve been following along on this journey, thank you, thank you for your curiosity, thank you for your enthusiasm, your open mindedness, your willingness to really dig in and see what our closest star has to offer. There’s so much that we can learn from this somewhat average, normal star that happens to give us life and affects everything that we do here on this planet. And it also allows us to also dream about other planets and other solar systems and other stars. So much is wrapped up into this eclipse that into this big year. And really, please stay curious and stay invested, just stay explorers. Make sure that you find a little bit of curiosity in whatever you do. And if you had the privilege of seeing the corona with your own eyes and experiencing the eclipse, try to bring those feelings and emotions with you from time to time. Just to make sure that you keep that awe and wonder with you.” 


Did You Know? Thousands of people participated in eclipse day citizen science projects, from studying Earth’s atmosphere with ham radio to launching weather balloons. If you participated, we appreciate your help! And with the eclipse in the rear view, you can still get involved with other NASA Sun science projects


More Good News! The team received recordings of habitats from 700 audio moth devices set up across the path of totality. In the coming months, they’ll need your help analyzing the data.


Thanks for Listening!