Are you doing anything on August 21? If you’re not busy (or even if you are), you might consider the Great American Solar Eclipse. For many, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a total solar eclipse. Think that’s not a big deal? Maybe you should read on.
Things To Consider About This Year’s Eclipse
The last good time to view a total solar eclipse in the U.S. was almost 50 years ago. We did have one back on February 26, 1979. But, it could only be seen in a limited number of areas in the Northwest. This was because “the weather for the most part was bleak,” (via Astronomy) So, really the last good time was more like 1970.
The next good time to view a total solar eclipse in the U.S. won’t be in until April of 2024. Since none of us know what the future holds, next time might not be as convenient for you or your schedule.
Solar eclipses only happen at a New Moon.
While solar eclipses happen at a New Moon, they don’t happen at every New Moon, and while solar eclipses always happen at a New Moon, lunar eclipses always happen at a Full Moon (but not every Full Moon).
Totality is totally “it.”
If at all possible, you should definitely try to be in the “path of totality,” that path of the eclipse where there is 100 percent coverage. If not, you will really wonder what all the hoopla is about. To quote the words of Astronomy Magazine, “likening a partial eclipse to a total eclipse is like comparing almost dying to dying.” So, get into the path of totality, if you can.
The weather looks good for viewing. This time of year, the weather is good over large parts of the U.S. That means the chance that the weather will be good for eclipse viewing is high. And, since the viewing time for most will be less than two-and-a-half minutes, that is important.
Safety Is Key
Since viewing a total solar eclipse might be a “bucket list” item for many people, paying attention to safety will be important. There will be lots of people trying to get a view. Here are some safety items to consider.
Consider getting to your viewing site early. With millions of people trying to find a good place to view the eclipse, things could get crowded and busy, especially right before viewing time. You can avoid the rush by having a plan for getting to your destination and getting there early.
If viewing the eclipse directly, consider wearing eclipse glasses. Good eclipse glasses can be obtained cheaply. Make the investment. Good eclipse glasses will block out the sun’s rays but allow you to see the special event clearly and in comfort.
If viewing the eclipse indirectly, construct or setup your pin-hole viewer at least an hour before the eclipse is scheduled to start. That way, if you have issues, you have time to fix them and not miss the event. Better yet, bring spare parts just to be sure.
Consider traveling away from the masses. A good plan for viewing might include getting away from the crowd. If possible, it might be a good idea to plan your viewing for out in the country. It may be easier to find open space.
August 21 will soon be upon us, and the path of totality may not be far from you. Consider a trip to see “the most spectacular sight in nature,” (via Great American Eclipse). The time and the weather may make this a great year for viewing. But, if you venture out, be safe. Make this August 21 a most positive experience that you can tell your friends and family about for years to come.
[Featured image by Muratart/Shutterstock]