A staggering 88 percent of American adults watched the solar eclipse on August 21st as it crossed the US. That’s 215 million people, most of whom went outside to see the event in person, according to a new study by the University of Michigan.
About 154 million people ventured outside to watch the Moon slowly creep in front of the Sun and then cover it, either partially or in full. The astronomical event was also live streamed, and about 61 million people viewed the eclipse electronically. That’s “unparalleled” in terms of public engagement with a scientific event, said Jon Miller, director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy at University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, in a statement.
Total solar eclipses happen only about every 18 months, when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun on its orbit around our planet. But often, the path of totality — where you can see the Sun completely covered by the Moon — passes over Antarctica, the open ocean, or other hard-to-reach places. That’s why the August 21st eclipse that crossed the US was such a big deal.
When we heard the news, we thought 215 million people is so many humans it’s hard to even think about. So to put that in perspective, here’s a list of things the eclipse was more popular than:
- 2017 Super Bowl: viewed by 111.3 million people, almost half the people who witnessed the most spectacular astronomic event of the decade.
- Game of Thrones season finale: the last episode of the TV show’s 7th season, which aired a week after the eclipse, was watched by 12.1 million people.
- Snapchat: 173 million people use Snapchat every day.
- Twitter: 157 million people use Twitter every day.
- 2016 elections: a little over 137 million Americans turned out to the polls in November.
- New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square: an estimated 2 million people crammed in the most outrageous square in the world to celebrate the beginning of 2017.
- Titanic and Avatar — combined: in the US, 138 million watched Titanic and approximately 59 million people watched Avatar — two of the top grossing movies of all time. Space: 1. Hollywood: 0.
The University of Michigan survey, conducted under a cooperative agreement with NASA, found that most adults viewed the eclipse with their family, friends, or co-workers. A follow-up survey, to be conducted next month and in November, will determine where the eclipse inspired people to read up on astronomical events.