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Millions across the U.S. looked to the skies today for the solar eclipse

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Earlier today, I stepped out onto the roof of NPR, slipped on a pair of eclipse glasses and saw the sun reduced to a sliver. Here in D.C., the sun was 87% blocked by the moon, but Brian Munoz with St. Louis Public Radio got a better view in a stadium with thousands of others. And he is with us now. Hey, Brian.

BRIAN MUNOZ, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Tell us about what you saw and where you were.

MUNOZ: Yeah. I'm here in Saluki Stadium in the heart of Carbondale, Ill., which is about two hours south of St. Louis. And I got to watch this year's total solar eclipse with 15,000 of my new friends here. And what's really special about this town is it also had an eclipse in 2017. So while this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, it was actually a twice-in-a-lifetime event here.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, lucky town.

MUNOZ: Yeah, right? The weather was warm and sunny. And for some people, seeing this is somewhat of a spiritual experience, like Arlene Mendez, who made the trek to nearby Makanda, Ill., all the way from Dallas, Texas, to view the eclipse with her daughter and boyfriend.

MARLENE MENDEZ: I think in a world where we feel so big and powerful, I think things like this help remind us that we're just a small piece of the bigger puzzle.

MUNOZ: Just as she was saying, this was a spiritual experience. And we talk a lot about this lately as reporters. And really, there are no words or it is very difficult to describe the actual experience of it. I teared up. I had goosebumps, the whole nine yards.

SHAPIRO: Well, tell us more about what it felt like, what you noticed, what surprised you.

MUNOZ: For sure. The temperature drop was one of the things that I think was most noticeable. Again, you hear about it, but experiencing it was super-cool because it was about 70 degrees here in southern Illinois, and it felt like it dropped, you know, 10, 20 degrees. And something else that was really cool were these big shadow bands that the sun is casting down onto the landscape, and seeing those race across the football field here were super-cool. But people were cheering. People were screaming when we reached totality.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: There it is.

(CHEERING)

SHAPIRO: Wow.

MUNOZ: That's a much different sound than in 2017, when we were battling clouds here in Saluki Stadium.

SHAPIRO: You are at a university stadium. So were there researchers there too?

MUNOZ: There were. Of course, there were researchers here at Southern Illinois University. But there were also researchers from NASA doing research on a bunch of different things like asteroids and the temperatures and the atmosphere. And one of the ones that - one of the things, that is, that they were researching during this eclipse was attempting to discern what they believe is a dust cloud or a dust ring that is around the sun. So a (inaudible) discovery going on during this phenomenon.

SHAPIRO: I mean, whoever might be jealous that you got to see a total eclipse should be even more jealous that there are two of them in Carbondale, Ill. How did this compare to the 2017 one?

MUNOZ: This one, luckily, was twice as long. In 2017, we had a little under two minutes. And this go-round, we had a little more than four, although it did not feel like four minutes. It felt like a few fleeting moments before it was bright again here. But overall, the buzz felt bigger in 2017. Everyone knew that it was worth making the drive, dealing with the traffic and all that fun. But, you know, they were just excited to be here.

SHAPIRO: Well, those of us who only got to 87% will have to take your word for it. Brian Munoz with St. Louis Public Radio speaking with us from Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Ill. Thank you.

MUNOZ: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Brian Munoz