Read More: The Washington Post
In October 1976, a total solar eclipse engulfed southern Australia and the city of Melbourne in darkness. Roving eclipse seekers and local astronomy fans welcomed the shadow. Robin Hirst, an astronomy lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s State College, watched the eclipse from a rooftop accompanied by 60 students. The Astronomical Society of Victoria hired a Boeing 727 to observe the event from the air. Glenn Schneider, then 20 and now an exoplanet astronomer at the University of Arizona, traveled to the peak of Mount Delegate in New South Wales to watch the totality. For those who knew what to expect, the mood was festive. “Seeing the approach of the moon’s shadow, this long conic of darkness slicing through the atmosphere that you can see extending back beyond it 240,000 miles,” Schneider said, “you can really feel yourself as part of the solar system. It connects the Earth, the sun and the moon together.” The rest of Melbourne scurried inside to watch the moon blot out the sun on TV. An estimated 2 million people in the city were “glued to their television sets,” one Australian newspaper reported.