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A Brief History of Bizarro Phenomena in Oregon's Skies

Sure, the Great American Eclipse is coming. But that's not all our state has seen.

By Bryanna Briley July 10, 2017 Published in the August 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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Star light, star bright...

June 1918: Total Solar Eclipse

The sky goes black, or, rather, 99 percent black. “Heavens cynosure of all eyes!” The Oregonian warns Portlanders ahead of time: “Daytime darkness will be Stygian.... For nearly two hours on Saturday Oregon will be girt with darkness—for the shadow of the moon will lie athwart the sun while that rarest of spectacles ... will be in progress.... But all of this district, including Portland, will be denied the pearly beauty of the corona—that strange light that plays about the fringe of the eclipse.”

August 1932: Partial Solar Eclipse

Starting around 6:30 p.m. and lasting nearly two hours, the moon slowly edged its way around the perimeter of the setting sun.

February 1979: Total Solar Eclipse

Again, around 8 a.m. on February 26, Portland was bathed in darkness by a total solar eclipse. Too bad it was cloudy. Still, an Oregonian scoop: “Animals Generally Take Eclipse in Stride.”

March 1997: Hale-Bopp Comet

Seen for five seconds over Mount Hood, this comet (which reportedly inspired the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide in California) had twin blue and white tails and was 1,000 times brighter than 1986 visitor Halley’s Comet.

June 2002: Partial Solar Eclipse

With the full eclipse visible only in the middle of the Pacific, Portland saw the moon taking a nibble from its solar counterpart for two hours starting in the late afternoon.

March 2015: Aurora Borealis

Collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun entering the earth’s atmosphere could be seen from Mount Hood, Bend, and as far south as Ashland.

November 2016: Supermoon

A supermoon occurs when our natural satellite reaches its full moon phase while also being at its orbit’s closest point to Earth. This supermoon was the moon’s closest encounter with the Earth since 1948. Alas, storm clouds loomed over Portland, as did the election aftermath.


Oregon’s next solar eclipse won’t happen until the next century—and only a partial slice at the end of the spectacle. Eat your vegetables: the next total solar eclipse will shade Portland in 2169.

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