MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Self-proclaimed “space freak” Anthony Ortega was about to miss out on rare total eclipse of the sun in the states.
That’s why he packed his bags and left Miami for Clemson, South Carolina, to see with his own eyes the spectacular show in the sky.
“In the middle of the day it’s going to be complete darkness 50 miles on each side of us. We’re almost in the middle of it. You don’t see it every day, right,” said Ortega.
Thousands gathered at Clemson University to be in the path of totality.
The Garrett family, who came from Charlotte, had high expectations.
“I’m expecting just a big black cloud covering the sun and making everything very, very dark,” said Jaili Garrett.
“It is a chilling experience for those who haven’t seen it for the first time,” said University of California Davis professor Howard Spero.
This was his ninth time seeing an eclipse. Science aside, he said the view is incredible.
“Imagine a black hole in the sky surrounded by this incredible silvery platinum atmosphere of the sun, with lines of a magnetic field of the sun with solar flares coming off the edge of the moon,” he said.
The celestial show started just after 1 p.m. as the moon moved between the sun and the earth, casting a shadow down below.
“It’s euphoria!” said Christopher Weiser, laughing with joy.
Then at 2:30 p.m. the light began to fade as the moon totally blocked the sun. There were loud cheers as the sky went from day to night in just a matter of seconds.
“It’s completely dark outside. This is the weirdest feeling I’ve ever felt,” Claire Sanford said.
Chase Gowdwin added, “It feels like it’s night time but it’s not. Venus is over there and it’s like, it’s just crazy. I don’t even know what to say.”
Rick Brown, who chases total eclipses all around the world and has already seen 15, said the experience is much more than just visual.
“It’s emotional, it’s spiritual, it’s religious, it will make the hair on the back of your head stand up. You’re going to see grown men crying out here when totality begins, it’s the most spectacular thing nature can provide us, visually,” he said.
For many like Rick Brown, the total eclipse was an emotional moment.
“Every single time I get shivers down my spine, I get tears in my eyes and I just am so in awe of how powerful this universe is,” said eclipse watcher Janice Brown.
“It’s almost like we’re alone in the universe, that God isn’t there, that nothing is there, like you’ve been dropped off. Everything we know isn’t there anymore,” said Nancy Falango.
About two and a half minutes after it began it ended, with the daylight returning quickly.
As light returned, Ortega was grateful he made the trip from Miami to see it. He had a front row seat to mother’s nature’s spectacular show.
“You get a feeling in your body that’s like… you’re here on earth, there’s the sun and the moon going around us. You’re actually seeing it in a different way than what you see usually,” he said.
Mauricio Vera made the drive from Kendall to see it. The word that came to mind for him was “awe.”
“I could feel my heart pumping faster as soon as it got dark I was like, ‘Oh my God, something out of this world just happened to me that I’ll never be able to comprehend,'” he said.
In South Florida, there was a partial eclipse – only about 80 percent of the sun was be hidden by the moon.
The next total eclipse over North America will take place in 2024. Florida will not be in the path of a totality solar eclipse until August 2045.