Total Solar Eclipse Was NASA's Biggest Online Event Ever

Tanner Person, right, and Josh Bliek of Vacaville, California, watch the total solar eclipse atop Carroll Rim Trail at Painted Hills, near Mitchell, Oregon, on August 21. Adrees Latif/Reuters

The recent total solar eclipse was a major celestial event—particularly in the United States, where the path of totality stretched from Oregon all the way to South Carolina. It was also major for NASA, which saw a total of more than 90 million page views on its main website and special eclipse subsite, making it the agency's biggest online event ever measured.

"We'll admit it—even we were a bit blown away by the sheer magnitude of response to the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017," the agency wrote Thursday. "It's one of the biggest internet events in recent history and by far the biggest online event NASA has ever measured. And that includes some pretty big events, like landing a car-sized rover on Mars and flying a spacecraft past Pluto."

NASA estimates its live broadcast—on the main site and via social media—garnered 40 million views. The agency recorded 12.1 million unique views on its live-eclipse page during the hours the event was taking place, with more than 2 million simultaneous views at the height of the online frenzy.

A graph comparing traffic during the eclipse to other space-related events in recent years—including New Horizons's historic flyby of Pluto, the discovery of liquid on Mars, the arrival of the Juno spacecraft at Jupiter and the discovery of new exoplanets—highlights its enormity. The eclipse also was reportedly the largest government web event recorded since the Federal Digital Analytics Program was founded in 2012.

8-25-17 NASA eclipse graph
User sessions on NASA websites from May 2015-present, as measured by Google Analytics. NASA

NASA wasn't the only one to see a surge of eclipse-related interest. Twitter said there were 6 million tweets about the event the day it took place. YouTube said NASA's was the most watched live-streamed video of the eclipse during what it called one of the year's biggest social media events. In total, the company wrote on its trends blog, people watched live streams and videos about the celestial event more than 100 million times, and for 6 million hours.

The eclipse was also bigger on Facebook than each of the previous four Super Bowls, with 66 million people creating 240 million "interactions" for the eclipse compared to between 50 million and 65 million people for the football events since 2014. To be fair, the eclipse garnered less than a quarter of the tweets the most recent Super Bowl did.

Regardless, it's clear that the total solar eclipse—also called the Great American Eclipse because of the path it cut through the mainland of the world's third most populous country—was a major event not only under the open sky, but also on screens of all sizes.