Several news sources, such as The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, have claimed that the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 is the "most-observed in history".

It was the most-observed and most-photographed eclipse in history, with many Americans staking out prime viewing spots and settling onto blankets and lawn chairs to watch, especially along the path of totality

The article states later that 200 million people were within a day's drive of the totality, and that it was primarily visible from the United States. Given that, I am skeptical about it being the "most-observed". Total solar eclipses have crossed India and China, each countries of one billion people, so I would have expected one of those, or another crossing a region more densely populated than the United States, to have been the most-observed total solar eclipse.

Was the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse indeed the most-observed in history?

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    Hard to quantify how many people "observed" the eclipse. Just the total eclipse, or does partial count too? I drove over 500 miles to see totality, but there were only about 200 people at the campground/park where I saw it and traffic was relatively normal.
    – DavePhD
    Aug 22, 2017 at 17:14
  • @DavePhD Well, somebody seems to be quantifying the number of people who observed it, since there is no other way to claim that this one had the "most" observing it. The linked article doesn't seem to make a distinction between partial or total eclipse in the number of people who viewed it, so I guess we'll go with either. Aug 22, 2017 at 18:24
  • Define "most observed". Observed by the greatest number - easy because the population increases. Observed by the greatest fraction of the global population? Observed by the greatest number of North Americans?
    – RedSonja
    Aug 28, 2017 at 9:00
  • @RedSonja As best I can tell, the articles are claiming "observed by the greatest number". Aug 28, 2017 at 13:17
  • In theory, there are more people alive today than there were during the last eclipse, so it's possible, but also hard to verify, and as DavePhD's answer points out, there was also less time to actually observe the eclipse, so it might not even be true.
    – Zibbobz
    Sep 18, 2017 at 19:34

2 Answers 2


Probably not. According to 'Monster' solar eclipse takes on Asian giants , referring to the 22 July 2009 solar eclipse, which had over 6 minutes of totality:

The total transit will obscure the sun by 50 percent or more for an estimated two billion people

In comparison the greater than 50% eclipsed region for the 21 August 2017 eclipse included all of Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic and other smaller Caribbean nations, most of the United States (not Hawaii or northern Alaska), most of the populated areas of Canada, northern Mexico, and northern portions of Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and a tiny part of Brazil. Less than 500 million people.


As noted in Will the total solar eclipse on April 8 be the most watched ever?, two other contenders are the 2024-04-08 eclipse across Mexico, the US and Canada, for which totality crossed over the homes of roughly 44 million people, and the 2027-08-02 eclipse across Spain, north Africa, and the Middle East, where 89 million people live in the path. That article also points out that while the 2009-07-22 eclipse in Asia hit more homes, the weather was overcast over most of the route that day.

So in terms of seeing the corona, the 2027 eclipse may end up the winner.

  • 1
    IMO only the area of the totality should really count. Anything short of totality is kind of 'meh'. Apr 14 at 17:30
  • @JonathanReez Agreed. I updated the article to clarify that that's what I was talking about.
    – nealmcb
    Apr 15 at 23:27
  • @JonathanReez Being in NYC last week, which saw about 90% I can tell you it was anything but "meh". Still a truly awe-inspiring sight.
    – Jamiec
    Apr 16 at 7:18
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    This feels a bit like answering a question titled "has Usain Bolt run 100m faster than anyone in history?" with "no, somebody will probably beat the record in a few years' time". Or perhaps answering one about Asafa Powell posted in 2007 to say that Usain Bolt has beaten it. The claim is not "there will never be another eclipse watched by this many people", it's "at the time of writing (in 2017), there has never before been an eclipse watched by this many people".
    – IMSoP
    Apr 16 at 19:46
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    It also doesn't make any sense to declare 2027 to be "the winner", unless you have some knowledge I don't about the upcoming extinction of the human race. It's quite likely that with a growing and increasingly mobile world population, many more people will observe, say, the eclipses of the 24th Century.
    – IMSoP
    Apr 16 at 19:57

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