Can you Hear an Eclipse?

Robert Traynor
August 21, 2017

The big event of 2017 in the United States is the total eclipse of the sun happening today, August 21, 2017 at various times ar0und the country.  It is the first total eclipse visible in the United States since 1979, which makes it a bit of a special event for young and old alike.  States across a swath of the US from Oregon to South Carolina and 11 other states in between with normally sleepy little towns that will become rather large cities for a day or so as the eclipse moves from obscuring the sun to total darkness.  Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights, a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun’s tenuous atmosphere – the corona – can be seen, will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will and including the rest of N America, the northern part of S America and parts of W Europe and Africa, must be content with a partial In somesolar eclipse. Britain will only see a brief and shallow partial eclipse as the Moon clips the bottom edge of the Sun just prior to sunset.  The next one through the US will take place in April, 2024 so truly it is uncommon and unique experience.  Many families that have traveled hundreds (even thousands) of miles to a remote location to experience the eclipse, some in their motor homes, travel trailers, and other vehicles and others simply taking an eclipse tour today to make the most of this 2 minute and 45 second natural phenomenon. 

What of the Sounds of an Eclipse?  Can you Hear it?  Is it just a Visual Experience? 

Scientists will be studying this eclipse like none other with investigations from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as well as many other solar research projects big and small around the US and worldwide.  While many of these studies look at the Sun’s Corona and its effects on the ionosphere and other indicate specific issues, there are others that will watch the animals as their world changes from day to night and back again.  Due to the change in light, nocturnal animals stir into action, while diurnal animals settle. As the sun’s light re-emerges, it often triggers what scientists call a ‘false dawn chorus.'”  Becker (2017) says that, “Solar eclipses confuse the hippos and piss of the pigeons”.   Previous eclipses have demonstrated that the change of light disrupts the bathing habits of hippos, and there is an increase of bug activity, particularly mosquitoes.  In the 1932 eclipse in California there were reports that crickets became excessively chirpy during totality, but cicadas stopped singing.  Bees, however, are disrupted as they return to their hives to make nectar during the darkness.  The behavior of birds appears to depend upon the species and while Owls hoot during totality, doves go quiet. and water birds like egrets stopped feeding and took off for their nighttime roosts. When the Sun reappeared, the doves “greeted the reappearance of light with a dawn chorus.  In previous eclipses hens stood completely still during totality, swallows acted normally, and pigeons became “agitated and aggressive.”  Christensen (2017) discusses pets and how they react to the eclipse,  “A study from the 1970s found that pet rabbits mostly slept. A few caged birds got agitated. Some dogs ignored the eclipse; a few seemed scared; a few barked when it was over. Cats, well, cats were cats. Some played, some meowed, but for the most part they slept, again showing off their best quality, as anyone who owns a cat knows: Our feline friends think the sun and the moon revolve around them, so what’s the big deal about a more little shade?”  Check out the Video on Animal behavior by clicking on the picture of the moon/sun to the right.  Click on the Innovation Now audio and find out how important it is to listen to the eclipse and not just “see”

The Eclipse Soundscapes Project uses sound to create a multisensory eclipse experience. The app, available from both the Apple App store and the Play store, includes audio descriptions of the eclipse in real time, as well as recordings of environmental sounds that tend to change during an eclipse. Users can even visualize the eclipse through touch, using the app’s interactive “rumble map”, vibrating the phone as totality approaches.   “For individuals who cannot see, hearing is an ideal way to experience the eclipse, since soundscapes change dramatically as the moon passes between the Earth and sun,” Eclipse Soundscapes representatives wrote on the project’s website. 

If you missed hearing this eclipse, you will have another chance in April of 2024.



Becker, R. (2017).  The eclipses effects on animals will be wild.  The Verge.  Retrieved August 21, 2017.

Christensen, J., (2017).  Help solve an ancient mystery about the eclipse: Figure out what the animals do.  CNN.  Retrieved August 2, 2017.


Christensen, J. (2017).  Help solve an ancient mystery about the eclipse: Figure out what the animals do.  CNN.  Retrieved August 21, 2017.

Innovation Now (2017).  Hearing the Eclipse.   Retrieved August 21, 2017.




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