Mesmerized Santa Barbara residents stood with their jaws dropped on Monday as they caught a glimpse of the sun vanishing behind the moon during a solar eclipse that swept coast-to-coast for the first time since 1918.
Morning clouds on the South Coast almost dashed viewers’ hopes of a clear sight, as hundreds of eclipse watchers and astronomy buffs of all ages converged at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to observe the partial solar eclipse.
Cheers and whoops erupted from the thrilled crowd as the coastal fog parted and blue skies appeared around 10 a.m.
Onlookers pointed skyward in anticipation while donning protective spectacles to view the rare solar phenomenon.
In Santa Barbara, where the moon covered 63 percent of the sun at the eclipse's peak at 10:18 a.m., a handful of watchers had constructed pinhole projectors out of tape and cardboard.
But viewers didn't need a pair of solar glasses to see the rare opportunity. A long line snaked around the Palmer Observatory, and telescope viewing stations were available.
“It was a vivid, bright red crescent and beautiful,” said Charlotte Gould, a 67-year-old Santa Barbara resident who took a peek at the sky through the museum’s state-of-the-art 20-inch telescope.
“It’s a thrill the sun popped out just in time — this was worth seeing.”
For the next total solar eclipse in April 2024, Gould said she was interested in traveling to a state on the direct path of totality, where the moon completely covers the sun.
The partial solar eclipse peeked through the clouds, as seen from Highway 154 near Santa Barbara Monday morning. (Amy Beth Katz photo)
Stefanie Coleman, the museum’s community education manager, said an estimated 500 pairs of protective eclipse glasses were on hand to look at the sun's fiery corona.
Many guests shared viewing devices and helped each other with the tricky task of eclipse selfies and photos.
“Everyone came together to the museum to share the experience of looking at the eclipse together,” Coleman said.
“It was a community-feel, where people were looking and then sharing their glasses with other people.”
Eclipse onlookers wanting to escape the morning marine layer headed up Highway 154, where cars lined the roadways as people gathered in viewing parties to watch the moon move in front of the sun.