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National Geographic Celebrates Solar Eclipses Throughout the Years

National Geographic Explorers have embarked on many expeditions over the past 70 years to study the phenomena of solar eclipses. On the day of the 2017 total solar eclipse, take a moment to relive footage from the moon’s previous trips between the sun and Earth.


Many were waiting with bated breath for today’s total solar eclipse, when the moon passed between the sun and Earth. For those of us in the United States, it’s been quite a while since this rare sight stretched across the country in 1918. However, solar eclipses happen once every year or two somewhere in the world and National Geographic Explorers and journalists have often been there to capture these momentous events.

In 1947, National Geographic Society hunted the P94 solar eclipse in Brazil alongside scientists and officers and noncommissioned officers of the Army Air and Ground Forces as they embarked on the first large eclipse expedition ever to be completely airborne. National Geographic Magazine contributor, F. Barrows Colton, said that the scientist’s compilations of photographs and observations gained, “information obtainable in no other way concerning that all-important giver of life, the sun.”

The following year, in May of 1948, the P93 solar eclipse crossed the Pacific Ocean. ‘Operation Eclipse’ called for multiple expeditions posted along a far-flung arc stretching from Burma to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. William A. Kinney, a National Geographic contributor at the time claimed, “It took five hours for the eclipse to traverse the path from monsoon-drenched jungles to the snow and fog of the sub-Arctic.”

A few years later, in 1952, National Geographic Society, the United States Navy, and the United States Air Force sent Dr. George Van Biesbroeck of Yerkes Observatory into the desert of Khartoum directly in the path of the P95 total solar eclipse. He photographed the sun’s blackout in an attempt to determine the accuracy of Einstein’s theory of relativity by studying the positions of background stars close to the sun’s edge.

Now in 2017, Astronomer and National Geographic Explorer Jay Pasachoff follows in their footsteps. He received a grant from National Geographic to study the solar corona during the sunspot cycle’s crucial mid-descent-phase revealed during totality of today’s Great American Eclipse. While we marveled at the moon obscuring the sun, Pasachoff studied its coronal configuration and spectrum of the sun. Visit here to learn more about Pasachoff’s work. If you’d like to join the ranks of these fascinating Explorers, apply for a grant from the National Geographic Society here.

You won’t have to wait too long in anticipation of the next solar eclipse as the awe-inspiring event is slated to happen in 2024. Until then, National Geographicwill host live coverage of the event online featuring exclusive visuals and educational materials.

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.