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

By Johnny Simon
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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

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

Paris, 1911

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

White House lawn, 1925

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

New York City, 1932

AP Photo
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.

Bucharest, 1961

Romanians observe a total eclipse of the sun through smoked pieces of glass in downtown Bucharest Feb. 15, 1961.

Valdosta, Georgia, 1970

AP Photo
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.

Thailand, 1995

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

Vatican City, 1999

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

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