How To See The First Total Solar Eclipse in the US Since 1979
Time to invest in some good glasses.
One. More. Year. Quick! Where will you be this time next year? Specifically, on August 21st, 2017?
We’re now just about one year out from a total solar eclipse gracing the United States from coast to coast…the first since 1979.
If you think one year out is too early to start planning, well, umbraphiles (those who chase the shadow of the Moon worldwide) have been planning to catch this one now for over a decade.
If you are worried about optimal viewing, you can join the Solar Eclipse Escape in 2017. You’ll have to get yourself to St. Louis, but you’ll get a bus pass to the viewing, a host of cool science activities, and some neat eclipse gear.
Check out the event details here.
The last time a total solar eclipse made landfall over a U.S. state was Hawaii on July 11th, 1991. Alas, the path of totality hasn’t touched down over the contiguous ‘Lower 48’ United States since February 26th, 1979.
And you have to go all the way back over nearly a century to June 8th, 1918 to find an eclipse that exclusively crossed the United States from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast.
Totality for the August 21st, 2017 eclipse crosses over many major cities, including Columbia South Carolina, Nashville, St. Louis and Salem, Oregon. The inner shadow of the Moon touches on 15 states as it races across the U.S. in just over an hour and a half. The length of totality is about 2 minutes in duration as the shadow makes landfall near Lincoln City, Oregon, reaches a maximum duration of 2 minutes, 42 seconds very near Carbondale, Illinois, and shrinks back down to 2 minutes and 35 seconds as the shadow heads back out to sea over Charleston, South Carolina.
The eclipse will be a late morning affair in the northwest, occurring at high noon over western Nebraska, and early afternoon to the east. And it must be noted, that getting yourself to a viewing location is a must.
Lots of fascinating projects are afoot leading up to the 2017 total solar eclipse, including The Eclipse MegaMovie Project to produce a complete video documentary of the eclipse path, plans by a student group to fly and observe the eclipse from balloons during totality, proposals to replicate famous eclipse experiments and more. It’s also worth noting that the bright star Regulus will sit just one degree from the Sun during totality
As an interesting aside, the Sun is about 400 times larger than the Moon in diameter, but the Moon is 400 times closer. We’ve actually heard this fact tossed out as evidence for intelligent design, though it’s just a happy celestial circumstance of our present era. In fact, annular eclipses are now slightly more common than totals in our current epoch, and will continue to become more so as the Moon slowly recedes from the Earth. Just under a billion years ago, the very first annular eclipse of the Sun as seen from the Earth occurred, and 1.4 billion years hence, the Earth will witness one last brief total eclipse.
But you won’t have to wait that long. Don’t miss the greatest show in the universe next August!
-Check out Michael Zeiler’s (@EclipseMaps) 10-foot long strip map of the entire eclipse path.
-Eclipses, both lunar and solar have played a role in history as well.
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