Millions of Americans equipped with protective glasses were taking prime positions on Monday along a ribbon of land across the United States to marvel at the first total solar eclipse to unfold from coast to coast in nearly a century.
After weeks of anticipation, the sight of the moon's silhouette passing directly in front of the sun, blotting out all but a halo-like solar corona, will draw one of the largest audiences in human history, experts say, when those watching via social and broadcast media are included.
Some 12 million people live in the 70-mile-wide (113-km-wide), 2,500-mile-long (4,000-km-long) zone where the total eclipse will appear on Monday. Millions of others have traveled to spots along the route to bask in its full glory.
In Depoe Bay, Oregon, just south of where the phenomenon will first appear at 10:15 a.m. PDT (1715 GMT), thick fog shrouded the water on Monday morning, with the sun hidden behind a curtain of mist and clouds. Visitors had taken every parking space along the sea wall by 6 a.m.
Some 94 minutes after its debut, at 2:49 p.m. EDT (1849 GMT), totality will take its final bow near Charleston, South Carolina, where eclipse gazers on Monday morning began drifting on to the harbor's sea wall.
Officials said the county's 16,000 hotel rooms were booked, and police expected up to 100,000 visitors to the area.
Nancy Conway, 57, an elementary school principal, said she made the long drive from Lynn, Massachusetts, with a car full of relatives.
"Twenty hours, three drivers, four adults, two 6-year-old twins," Conway said as she sat in a lawn chair facing the harbor. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
The last time such a spectacle unfolded from the Pacific to the Atlantic was in 1918. The last total eclipse seen anywhere in the United States took place in 1979.
For millions of others outside the zone of "totality," a partial eclipse of the sun will appear throughout North America if there is no local cloud cover.
Enter a name and e-mail address and we will e-mail this website link too them.