The Double Dawn

The eclipse taught scientists that the sun is bigger than they had thought, and its atmosphere hotter and denser

High on the mountaintop, where the life-giving star is worshiped, no one slept a wink. There in the cold, thin air of Hawaii's Mauna Kea, home to the world's greatest concentration of high-powered telescopes, the scientists paced, fretted and nervously tuned their instruments. Night is darker than pitch at the crest of the 4,300-meter (14,000-ft.) dead volcano. In that utter blackness, the ultimate sun worshipers waited for the day that would dawn not once but twice.

By sunrise at 5:52 a.m., a total of 250 scientists, journalists and guests had gathered, waiting and waiting for the last eclipse visible from the...

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