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The time-honored, eye-searing tradition of staring directly at a solar eclipse

Two unidentified nuns watch a solar eclipse through protective glassed outside of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on Aug. 11, 1999.
Two unidentified nuns watch a solar eclipse through protective glassed outside of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on Aug. 11, 1999.
Image: AP Photo
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The solar eclipse taking place later this August is expected to send millions of people flocking to communities along the phenomenon’s path. While all the excitement might be blamed on the moment-seeking Instagram generation, chasing eclipses is a time-honored tradition. Here’s a quick visual history of eclipse spectatorship around the world over the past century.

Solar eclipse in today’s Kazakhstan, 1907

Observers watching a solar eclipse with telescopes in what is current day Kazakhstan in 1907.
Observers watching a solar eclipse with telescopes in what is current day Kazakhstan in 1907.
Image: Prokudin-Gorskiĭ, Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich/Library of Congress

Paris, 1911

A crowd looking at an eclipse in Paris, 1911.
A crowd looking at an eclipse in Paris, 1911.
Image: Eugene Atget/Metropolitan Museum of Art

White House lawn, 1925

US president Calvin Coolidge viewing a solar eclipse on the White House lawn on Jan. 24, 1925.
US president Calvin Coolidge viewing a solar eclipse on the White House lawn on Jan. 24, 1925.
Image: Library of Congress

New York City, 1932

Eclipse watchers squint through protective film as they view a partial eclipse of the sun from the top deck of New York’s Empire State Building Aug. 31, 1932.
Eclipse watchers squint through protective film as they view a partial eclipse of the sun from the top deck of New York’s Empire State Building Aug. 31, 1932.
Image: AP Photo

Bucharest, 1961

Romanians observe a total eclipse of the sun through smoked pieces of glass in downtown Bucharest Feb. 15, 1961.
Romanians observe a total eclipse of the sun through smoked pieces of glass in downtown Bucharest Feb. 15, 1961.
Image: AP Photo/ROMPRES

Valdosta, Georgia, 1970

Ginnie Bailey reaches for her eclipse viewer from her father Robert Bailey of Valdosta as the eclipsed sun begins to burn through a cloud cover that has all but obscured a view of the total solar eclipse in Valdosta, Georgia on March 7, 1970.
Ginnie Bailey reaches for her eclipse viewer from her father Robert Bailey of Valdosta as the eclipsed sun begins to burn through a cloud cover that has all but obscured a view of the total solar eclipse in Valdosta, Georgia on March 7, 1970.
Image: AP Photo

Thailand, 1995

Young Buddhist monks watch the solar eclipse through various kinds of filters at this town bordering Thailand and Burma on October 24, 1995.
Young Buddhist monks watch the solar eclipse through various kinds of filters at this town bordering Thailand and Burma on October 24, 1995.
Image: Reuters/Apichart Weerawong

Vatican City, 1999

Two unidentified nuns watch a solar eclipse through protective glassed outside of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on Aug. 11, 1999.
Two unidentified nuns watch a solar eclipse through protective glassed outside of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, on Aug. 11, 1999.
Image: AP Photo