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Portland didn't see 'totality', but coming very close was pretty spectacular

DAVID F. ASHTON - During the nearly total solar eclipse at OMSI, the light changed more toward the blue part of the spectrum and the sky darkened, many sat silently watching, while others responded with delighted laughter, and some wept openly. Monday morning, August 21, began like many others this summer, with clear skies and bright sunshine illuminating Southeast Portland neighborhoods – and nothing yet to hint that the long-awaited and much-publicized solar eclipse was about to begin.

But, by 9:30 a.m., the view of the world had begun to change, as the moon began to cross in front of the sun from our perspective – slowly but surely blocking its rays.

Although it wasn't an official holiday, traffic was light all over the area, as people skipped work to observe the astronomical phenomenon. In the near-empty parking lots of retail stores and office buildings, workers donned special eclipse viewing glasses and stood, transfixed, looking up to watch the eclipse unfold.

The largest "viewing party" in the metropolitan Portland area was just east of the Willamette River at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

By the time the moon started to cover the sun, more than 1,500 people had gathered in the plaza in front of the science museum on S.E. Water Street, just north of the Ross Island Bridge – most with eclipse viewing glasses in hand, waiting for the eclipse.

ERIC NORBERG - In Westmoreland, the sharp light of the nearly-eclipsed sun descending through leaves of trees projected many images of the nearly-eclipsed sun on the ground underneath. As it took place, especially-commissioned soundtrack music played, produced by KQAC-FM, "All Classical Portland", for the solar eclipse, while OMSI Education Matthew Steiner narrated the spectacular natural event.

Although Portland didn't experience a "total" solar eclipse, 99.47% of the sun was covered here, giving those at the OMSI viewing party a satisfying experience when the maximum eclipse occurred at 10:17 a.m.

The ambient light dimmed, and its color tilted a bit towards blue; the temperature cooled; street lights started to come on. Tiny images of the eclipsed crescent of the sun appeared underneath trees, as leaves acted as "pinhole cameras"; and some observers noticed "shadow bands" rippling across the ground.

Martha Meyer told THE BEE she'd brought her kids, and some of her neighbors in Sellwood, to see the solar eclipse. "I don't care if it's 'total' or not; this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us," she exclaimed.

The darkened skies and distinct shadows created eerie visual effects – until minutes later, as the moon continued on its path, the light and heat of the sun began to return.

Too soon for some, the eclipse was over in Southeast Portland – as the moon's shadow raced eastward across the United States, reaching the Atlantic Ocean just over an hour and a half later.

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