The upcoming total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, is the first one that can be viewed in the contiguous U.S. since 1979.
The best place to view is within what’s called the “path of totality,” or where the moon’s shadow makes landfall at Newport, Oregon, sweeps a thin line across 12 states, and heads back out to sea at Charleston, South Carolina.
It’s the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in nearly 100 years.
What is a Total Eclipse?
What is this amazing sight, exactly? Florida Tech professor Dan Batcheldor describes it as “a cosmic coincidence in which you can stand in the shadow of the moon. As the moon blocks the direct light from the sun, you will see a sky that you have never seen before. You will see the planets of our solar system form a single line either side of the Sun, and you will see the atmosphere of the sun, the corona, as a collection of glowing wisps, all during the daytime.”
The result: a view people all over the world travel to see.
Not Just Beauty
The total eclipse is more than just an amazing view into space. Batcheldor says, “Earth-observing satellites in geostationary orbits will be able to track the actual shadow of the moon across the surface of the Earth.” According to astronomer Jay Pasachoff in NPR, it is easier to see examine the solar atmosphere and see whole parts of the sun during an eclipse compared to standard satellite views.
For example, the innermost part of the corona, or the sun’s outer atmosphere, is revealed during an eclipse when the moon perfectly aligns to block the sun. This area of the sun is fascinating to researchers as it impacts Earth’s electric grids and communication systems.
How to View the Eclipse
Finding a spot within the path is ideal, as you can view the eclipse in totality. Campsites from coast to coast are heavily booking up to meet this demand.
If you can’t make it there, a partial eclipse will be visible throughout the country. NASA has an interactive map displaying what times you can view the eclipse, depending on where you live. For example, Florida Tech is hosting a viewing party on campus from 1:30-4 p.m., which covers the eclipse window of 1:21 to 4:16 p.m. At 2:30 p.m., there is an expected 84% totality from Melbourne.
Wherever you are, it’s important to view the eclipse safely. The only time it is safe to look at the eclipse with the naked eye is during the brief window of totality, which is only visible to those in that ribbon of land across the U.S.
For those viewing a partial eclipse, eye protection is necessary for safe viewing. Looking directly into a partial eclipse can result in a crescent-shaped burn in the back of the eye, which may cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.
Solar filter sunglasses, pinhole projects, number 14 welder’s glass and telescopes with solar filters are a few of the safe ways to view the eclipse. NASA has compiled a list of safety tips here: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety