Solar eclipse of February 26, 1979

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Solar eclipse of February 26, 1979
1979 eclipse 3.tif
Totality as seen from Bozeman, Montana
Type of eclipse
Maximum eclipse
Duration169 sec (2 m 49 s)
Coordinates52°06′N 94°30′W / 52.1°N 94.5°W / 52.1; -94.5
Max. width of band298 km (185 mi)
Times (UTC)
Greatest eclipse16:55:06
Saros120 (59 of 71)
Catalog # (SE5000)9462

A total solar eclipse occurred in North America on February 26, 1979.

A solar eclipse is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon's apparent diameter is larger than the Sun's, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth's surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometres wide. Occurring only 18 hours and 35 minutes after perigee (Perigee on February 25, 1979 at 22:19 UTC), the Moon's apparent diameter was larger.

The central shadow of the moon passed through the American states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana (where totality covered almost the entire state), and North Dakota, the Canadian provinces Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, the Northwest Territories of Canada (the portion that is now Nunavut), and Greenland.


Animation of eclipse path

Many visitors traveled to the Pacific Northwest to view the Monday morning eclipse,[1] as it was the last chance to view a total solar eclipse in the contiguous United States for 38 years, 5 months, 26 days. The next opportunity was on August 21, 2017.

Although the path of totality passed through Portland shortly after sunrise (maximum at 8:14 am PST),[2] it was not directly observable due to overcast skies in northwestern Oregon.[3][4]

About a half hour later, the path of totality was in Manitoba and passed through cloudless Winnipeg in the late morning, maximum was at 10:48 am CST.[5] The greatest eclipse occurred seven minutes later at 10:55 am CST.

In literature[edit]

Writer Annie Dillard viewed the eclipse from the Yakima Valley, in central Washington State. She described her impressions of the eclipse in an essay, "Total Eclipse," first published in the magazine Antaeus and then in her collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk (1982). It was later selected for inclusion in The Best American Essays of the [20th] Century (2000).[6] Dillard describes a nearly overwhelming emotional experience, as suggested in this quotation: "I pray you will never see anything more awful in the sky." Describing the reactions of other onlookers, she relates "I heard screams."

The 1979 eclipse was also referenced in the opening pages of Douglas Coupland's novel, Generation X.

Rural yardlights automatically turned on during totality in Bozeman, Montana

Related eclipses[edit]

A partial lunar eclipse occurred on March 13, 1979, 15 days later, visible over Africa, Europe and Asia. 177 days later after the total solar eclipse of February 26, 1979, occurred an annular solar eclipse on August 22, 1979. A total lunar eclipse followed on September 6, 1979. 355 days after the total solar eclipse of February 26, 1979, occurred a total solar eclipse on February 16, 1980.

Solar eclipses of 1979–1982[edit]

This eclipse is a member of a semester series. An eclipse in a semester series of solar eclipses repeats approximately every 177 days and 4 hours (a semester) at alternating nodes of the Moon's orbit.[7] There were 8 solar eclipses between February 26, 1979 and July 20, 1982. Were there: February 26, 1979 (total solar eclipse, 0.8 days after perigee, 103.9%, 0.89811 gamma, saros 120), August 22, 1979 (small annular solar eclipse, 0.6 days before apogee, 93.3%, -0.96319 gamma, saros 125), February 16, 1980 (total solar eclipse, 1 day before perigee, 104.3%, 0.22244 gamma, saros 130), August 10, 1980 (large annular solar eclipse, 5 days before apogee, 97.3%, -0.19154 gamma, saros 135), February 4, 1981 (large annular solar eclipse, 4 days before perigee, 99.4%, -0.48375 gamma, saros 140), July 31, 1981 (total solar eclipse, 3.8 days after perigee, 102.6%, 0.57917 gamma, saros 145), January 25, 1982 (moderate partial solar eclipse, 4.7 days after apogee, 56.6%, -1.23110 gamma, saros 150) and July 20, 1982 (small partial solar eclipse, 0.9 days after perigee, 46.4%, 1.28859 gamma, saros 155).

Saros 120[edit]

This eclipse is a part of Saros cycle 120, repeating every 18 years, 11 days, containing 71 events. The series started with partial solar eclipse on May 27, 933 AD, and reached an annular eclipse on August 11, 1059. It was a hybrid event for 3 dates: May 8, 1510, through May 29, 1546, and total eclipses from June 8, 1564, through March 30, 2033. The series ends at member 71 as a partial eclipse on July 7, 2195. The longest duration of totality was 2 minutes, 50 seconds on March 9, 1997. All eclipses in this series occurs at the Moon’s descending node.

Metonic cycle[edit]

The metonic series repeats eclipses every 19 years (6939.69 days), lasting about 5 cycles. Eclipses occur in nearly the same calendar date. In addition, the octon subseries repeats 1/5 of that or every 3.8 years (1387.94 days). All eclipses in this table occur at the Moon's descending node.


  1. ^ "Eclipse chased across Northwest". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. (Florida). (New York Times). February 27, 1979. p. 1A.
  2. ^ "Total Eclipse". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). February 25, 1979. p. 6.
  3. ^ "Thick clouds hide eclipse from many". Eugene Register-Guard. (Florida). Associated Press. February 26, 1979. p. 1A.
  4. ^ "Sun gives a wink to Northwest U.S." Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. February 26, 1979. p. 1.
  5. ^ Van, Jon (February 27, 1979). "Eclipse turns morning to night at 10:48 am". Chicago Tribune. p. 2, sec. 1.
  6. ^ Atwan, Robert (2001-10-10). Oates, Joyce Carol (ed.). The Best American Essays of the Century (Reprint ed.). Mariner Books. ISBN 9780618155873.
  7. ^ van Gent, R.H. "Solar- and Lunar-Eclipse Predictions from Antiquity to the Present". A Catalogue of Eclipse Cycles. Utrecht University. Retrieved 6 October 2018.


External links[edit]