A look back at the 1979 total solar eclipse

(ABC News) — Dressed in a dark blazer and a polka-dot tie, ABC News’ Frank Reynolds anchored the network’s live coverage of a total solar eclipse 38 years ago.

Although the celestial phenomenon on Feb. 26, 1979 was only visible from the Pacific Northwest, it was the last total solar eclipse over the contiguous United States to take place that century — and just like this year, the rare event captured the imagination of the nation.

“Good morning. This is indeed a special events broadcast of a genuine special event,” Reynolds said from ABC News’ studio in New York City. “The last total eclipse of the sun over the continent this century. The moon is moving between the sun and the earth and across a relatively narrow strip of the northwestern United States and central Canada.”

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ABC News broadcast the solar eclipse live from various locations within the path of totality. Viewers watched as the moon’s shadow blocked the sun’s beaming face in broad daylight over Portland, Oregon, and the city plunged into darkness at around 8:14 a.m. PDT.

The experience lasted just over two minutes there.

“Welcome back to daylight, Portland,” Reynolds laughed, as the live shot of the city showed a bright sky.

Another live shot of the total solar eclipse from Montana’s capital city of Helena captured the solar corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere that is usually obscured by glare but appears as a ring of ethereal white wisps around the moon as it blocks the solar surface. Cheers and applause rang out from the crowd in Helena in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

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“The light here is eerie. It’s a yellowish, gray on the horizon,” ABC News’ Ron Miller said while reporting on location.

Soon after, the sun emerged from behind the moon, creating the “diamond ring” effect over Helena, and the crowd roared in awe.

“So that’s it — the last solar eclipse to be seen on this continent in this century,” Reynolds said before signing off. “And as I said not until August 21, 2017, will another eclipse be visible from North America. That’s 38 years from now. May the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace. ABC News, of course, will bring you a complete report on that next eclipse 38 years from now.”

On Monday, starting at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, ABC News’ David Muir will lead the network’s live coverage of the astronomical event from within the path of totality.

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