On August 21, 2017, people will get to witness what is being called the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, and those in its path won’t soon forget it. The total solar eclipse of 2017 is extremely special as it marks the first time that there has been a total solar eclipse visible from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United States since 1918. The upcoming total solar eclipse is part of an eclipse cycle that is known as Solar Saros 145, and in this cycle there are 77 solar eclipses which repeat every 18 years and 11 days.
The August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse marks number 22 out of the 77 eclipses in this cycle and these eclipses continue to grow in their duration as the cycle goes on. For instance, one eclipse in this series will last for seven minutes and 12 seconds. However, this won’t be occurring until June 25, 2522, so this is one that we will have to miss.
The last total solar eclipse that those in the United States could view occurred on July 11, 1991, but this was technically only visible if you happened to be sunbathing by the sea in Hawaii, and even then only in certain parts of Hawaii.
During the 2017 total solar eclipse, those in its path will witness the sun being totally obscured by the moon, which will turn broad daylight into a gentle twilight with hushed voices all around as the world grows quiet.
The total solar eclipse of 2017 can be seen in its totality along a narrow 2,500-mile diagonal path which winds from Oregon to South Carolina on a 70-mile-wide length of land, as Space reports. Those lucky enough to find themselves directly in the path of totality will see the skies darken for two minutes and 41.6 seconds.
The path of the 2017 total solar eclipse will shift through 12 states and various cities across America, which is prompting many to take to the road to find the perfect spot to view it at. The show will begin in Oregon and then push into Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and finally end in South Carolina, according to National Geographic.
Interestingly, even if you are in the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse, you will want to choose your spot very carefully. This is because some of the larger cities you may be viewing it from, such as St. Louis and Kansas City, will require you to be in a very specific spot to to see the solar eclipse in its totality. If you are in Portland, Atlanta or Chattanooga, you will miss totality. If you are in Nashville, you will be able to see partial totality according to Eclipse2017.org.
If you are exceedingly keen on witnessing the 2017 total solar eclipse, Eclipse2017.org has a handy search tool for each state along its path which lists the duration of totality for each town or city in that state. If you’re on the West Coast of the United States and would like to view the solar eclipse in Oregon, there are some places that are better than others. In Huntington, the duration of totality lasts for two minutes and nine seconds, and has the longest duration of totality of anywhere in Oregon. Of course, other spots are fairly close, and then some towns like Aurora will only see totality of the solar eclipse for 25 seconds.
If you are in South Carolina at the time of the 2017 total solar eclipse, head to Central, where the length of totality will be two minutes and 38 seconds, the longest anywhere in the state. Close to this is Cross Hill, at two minutes and 37 seconds of totality. Again, many will be close to these figures with just seconds of difference, although if you are in Blackville you will only see 23 seconds of totality.
The experience of viewing a total solar eclipse is one which people remember all of their lives. Rick Fienberg, from the American Astronomical Society, says that it is not at all unusual for spectators to find themselves crying over the spectacle of a total solar eclipse of the kind that we will see on August 21, 2017.
“It brings people to tears. It makes people’s jaw drop.”
NASA has said that during totality of the solar eclipse, even planets and stars will make themselves visible, as Space report.
“During those brief moments when the moon completely blocks the sun’s bright face, day will turn into night, making visible the otherwise hidden solar corona. Bright stars and planets will become visible as well. This is truly one of nature’s most awesome sights.”
If you plan on being in the path of 2017 total solar eclipse and would like to watch, you will want to pick up some solar viewing glasses for a perfect show. This will enable viewers to look at the sun both before and during totality. If you want to make certain that these glasses have been approved by NASA and other scientific organizations and meet international standards, make sure you only use solar viewing glasses made by Thousand Oaks Optical, American Paper Optics, Rainbow Symphony, and TSE 17, according to Space.
During complete totality, when the sun is fully obscured by the moon, you are able to glance up at the eclipse without glasses. Having binoculars handy will also help you to see the solar corona. However, do be careful and if in doubt make sure you read NASA’s safety guide before attempting to view the sun with the naked eye. Failing that, wear your solar viewing glasses throughout the 2017 total solar eclipse and you are guaranteed to be safe.
Do you plan on being in the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse so that you can watch it in its totality on August 21?
[Featured Image by Handout/Getty Images]