On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will grace the majority of the United States, an event that has not occurred in any substantial capacity since 1918. This will no doubt be something that you will want to remember, so this short guide will help you prepare for the total solar eclipse that is set to happen soon.
What is the Great American Solar Eclipse?
The Great American Solar Eclipse is the name given to a total solar eclipse that can be seen in its entirety within the contiguous United States. This year, the total eclipse will travel from the West Coast of the United States across to the East Coast. Starting in Lincoln City, Oregon, and ending in Charleston, South Carolina.
The name "Great American Solar Eclipse" comes from the fact that for the first time in nearly a century, America will have the chance to view a solar eclipse. To be more specific, it’s the first time in over a hundred years that the country will be the only place on the planet in which it can be viewed.
What is a Total Eclipse?
According to NASA, a total eclipse of the sun happens when the new moon, the sun, and Earth line up together, with the moon casting its shadow on Earth. This isn’t a rare occurrence by any means because the moon has a shadow all the time, but because the moon’s orbit is tilted, Earth doesn’t catch the eclipse every time one happens.
You can distinguish a total eclipse from a normal solar eclipse by one key characteristic: in a total solar eclipse, the sun is completely covered, showcasing only the sun’s corona. This gives off the appearance of a ring of light in a darkened sky during the day.
How Rare is This Event?
Total eclipses aren’t rare by any means; in fact, according to the website Space, a total solar eclipse is visible on Earth every 18 months. That means that two total solar eclipses take place somewhere on Earth every three years.
However, a total solar eclipse that reaches American soil is extremely rare. The last great eclipse was in 1918; however, this event did reach the Caribbean, which will not happen during this eclipse.
The last time a total solar eclipse hit just the mainland of the United States was all the way back on June 13, 1257. That’s right: it has been just over 850 years since a total solar eclipse of this kind was visible from Earth.
Visibility and Location
The path the solar eclipse will take is known as the path of totality, which means that the cities and towns that are squarely within the path will be able to view the solar eclipse in its entirety, while other sections of the country will be able to see a partial solar eclipse.
Finding out if you’re in the path of the total eclipse is simple: head over to the Eclipse 2017 site, powered by NASA, and look at the interactive map. The map will show you how much of the eclipse you’ll be able to see and for how long.
One of the best places to view the Great American Eclipse of 2017 is the little Oregon town of Madras, which is right on the path of totality. With expected clear skies, Madras is being called the unofficial center for eclipse watchers in Oregon. The 6,700 population of Madras is expected to swell ten-fold to 67,000 people. Hotels have been booked solid for months and began as early as 2010.
One local resident Alexa LaPier is excited for the upcoming eclipse. “I’m going to watch it with my best friend Nancy. It will be exciting to see so many people come to town. I heard that people are coming here all the way from Japan to see the eclipse. It’s going to be crazy!”. When asked about the upcoming eclipse, Alexa said that “We were told to stock up on groceries because so many people are expected to come to Madras and the local grocery store could sell out.”
Partial Solar Eclipse Across America
If you don’t live in the path of the total solar eclipse, don’t worry: a partial solar eclipse will be visible from every state in the contiguous United States. Depending on where you live, the partial solar eclipse can change the magnitude and obscuration, or the amount of the sun that would be obscured by the moon, so click on the map by NASA to calculate when the partial solar eclipse in your area will be visible.
Some other countries will also be able to view the solar eclipse, including Canada, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands. This will be a partial solar eclipse, with ranges from 89 percent to 11 percent, depending on the location.
A partial eclipse will also be visible in Northwestern Europe; however, since the eclipse coincides with sunset, only the northern most countries, such as Ireland and Scotland, will be able to view the eclipse in its entirety. The eclipse will not be visible east of Germany.
Tips for Viewing the Solar Eclipse
Depending on where in the United States you will be viewing the Great American Solar Eclipse, keep in mind that there are a few tips to make your experience easier and more comfortable.
Beware Fake Solar Eclipse Glasses
You’ll have heard by now that everyone who’s planning on watching the solar eclipse has been warned by experts and the government to wear solar viewing glasses. The total eclipse is only safe to view, momentarily, during totality, which usually lasts less than a minute.
These glasses were made specifically for viewing the solar eclipse because staring directly at the sun can damage your eyes. Buy a pair of solar viewing glasses on Amazon or through NASA; it’s also possible to get a free pair from your local library or city hall. These particular glasses have the necessary ISO 12312-2 international safety standards needed to protect your eyes.
You should know that if you purchase solar view glasses, or solar filters, that the product shouldn’t cost you more than $10. If it costs any more than a few dollars, it’s probably a fake and you should avoid these products.
A great resource to make sure you’re getting legitimate solar viewing glasses comes from the American Astronomical Society. Here you can find authorized dealers that will sell you the best products.
To Photograph or Not to Photograph
While probably not big on your list of concerns when trying to catch the best place to see a solar eclipse, deciding whether or not you’re going to take photo or video of the solar eclipse may change your experience.
If you’re taking photographs and you’re directly in the path of the total solar eclipse, chances are that cell towers will be overwhelmed and you won’t be able to upload your photographs on social media straight away. This might be a good thing because although having photographic evidence of the event is great, it doesn’t substitute for being fully present during the solar eclipse.
It’s incredible to think that such a rare event is taking place this month, especially since it’s been about a millennium since the last time it happened. If you’re at all interested in this solar eclipse, reading this article will no doubt help you plan your own experience. Remember, a total solar eclipse touching down only in the United States is a once-in-a-millennia opportunity, so don’t miss out!