A total solar eclipse will be visible across a huge swath of the United States exactly one year from today, and sky-watchers have begun the anxious countdown to what is being called the Great American Eclipse, USA Today is reporting.
An estimated 12 million Americans live directly within the path of the eclipse, and 200 million live within a few hours’ drive. The eclipse will begin in northern Oregon, then make its way east-southeast across parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and the Carolinas, before sputtering out over the Atlantic Ocean.
— Science News (@ScienceNews) August 21, 2016
As the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, the moon will completely block out the light for anywhere from two minutes and a few seconds to a full two and a half minutes over Kentucky. During “totality,” as astronomers describe it, those in the eclipse’s path will experience a couple of minutes of an eerie twilight. Outside of the totality zone, the Moon will still obscure much of the sun — so even if you aren’t directly within the path of the eclipse, you’ll still be able to experience some of its effects.
Nashville is the largest city directly in the path of the eclipse, but other major and smaller cities that will experience totality include Lincoln, Nebraska, Kansas City, and Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina. Within a one- to two-hour drive are St. Louis, Atlanta, Omaha, Cheyenne, Topeka, Knoxville, and Charlotte, among others. To see if you are within the path of the eclipse, check out the interactive map, created by Xavier Jubier, here.
— Weerenonweer.nl (@weerenonweer) August 21, 2016
Even though it’s a year away, cities across the country are having a field day with the upcoming eclipse.
In Oregon, organizers of SolarFest are putting together a four-day extravaganza complete with food & drink, live music, children’s activities, and even NASA exhibits.
“Experience the mind-blowing phenomena of a total solar eclipse during this four-day festival, with events, music and food inspired by the Pacific Northwest. The Oregon Solarfest will feature eclectic and alternative music varieties, family-friendly camping, global food tastes, craft beer, and local spirits, delivered on the stunning Central Oregon landscape. There’s nothing else like it, anywhere in the US, and there won’t be ever again.”
Meanwhile, in Nashville — the largest city directly in the path of the eclipse — organizers are also putting something together for the eclipse, although as of this writing organizers are keeping the public in the dark about the planned activities.
If you live in the path of the eclipse — or plan to make a drive to get within range — here are some eclipse-viewing tips.
- Use this interactive map to see what time to start looking. Times listed on this map are in UT (Universal Time — or Greenwich Mean Time), so you’ll have to do some easy math in your head. If you live on Pacific (West Coast) time, subtract seven hours (so for example, according to the map, the eclipse begins at 16:04 UT on the Oregon coast; subtract six hours and you get 10:04 am local time). If you live in Mountain Time, subtract six hours; five hours for Central Time, and four hours for Eastern Time, (numbers for Daylight Saving Time).
- Do not look directly at the sun! For one thing, the brightness of the sun will blot out your visibility of the moon as it moves across the sun’s disc. And for another thing, you could, you know, go blind. Instead, use a filtration device — a pair of number 14 welder’s glasses will do perfectly. If you don’t have a welder’s helmet on hand, NASA can teach you how to make a nifty pinhole observation device with items you likely have in your kitchen. Or you can get yourself a pair of cheap sunglasses (eclipse-safe sunglasses, that is) for under a dollar.
- Hope for clear skies. NASA can predict the movement of the Earth, the sun, and the moon, using models that can predict eclipses — and other space happenings — centuries into the future. Predicting the weather, on the other hand, is a different matter entirely. And if it rains that day, you’ll experience the darkness as the Moon casts the Earth into shadow, but you won’t get to see much else.
Will you be making it a point to check out the 2017 Great American Eclipse?
[Image via Shutterstock/Igor Kovalchuk]