Rare Solar Eclipse Coming to the USA in 2017

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

Imagine a sunny day when all of a sudden darkness falls, stars appear and in minutes the sun comes out again. What just happened? Ancient cultures around the world have stories trying to explain the sun's disappearance. Today we know it as a total solar eclipse.

On August 21st the United States will experience this rare astronomical event. The new moon will move between the Earth and the sun creating a narrow shadow that will travel from Oregon to South Carolina. Nearly everyone in the continental United States will see at least a partial solar eclipse, while the thin path of totality will pass coast to coast.   

Where You Can See It

Now is a great time to plan a summer trip to Oregon (Madras), Idaho (Idaho Falls), Wyoming (Casper & Grand Teton), Montana, Nebraska (Lincoln), Iowa, Kansas, Missouri (Jefferson City), Illinois (Carbondale), Kentucky (Paducha), Tennessee (Nashville), Georgia (Clayton), and North or South Carolina (Columbia.) Expect the places mentioned to be very busy, expensive and probably booked up by now. Whatever you decide to do, plan now! Here are downloadable maps of the path if totality at NASA's Total Eclipse Website. Decide where you’ll be, then watch the weather as the date approaches. You want a clear sky.

How to Watch a Solar Eclipse

You never want to look directly at the sun without appropriate protection ever. The only exception to this is during totality. You can purchase glasses specifically designed for safe solar viewing or a sheet of number 14 welder's glass. 

Phases of an Eclipse

Partial Eclipse, glasses on. The eclipse begins when the sun's disk is partially blocked by the moon.

Partial Eclipse, glasses on. The eclipse begins when the sun's disk is partially blocked by the moon.

Baily's beads, glasses on. Beads of bright sunlight stream around the edge showing the peaks and valleys of the Moon. 

Baily's beads, glasses on. Beads of bright sunlight stream around the edge showing the peaks and valleys of the Moon. 

Diamond Ring, glasses on. The last stream of light through the moons valleys create a bright flash of light.

Diamond Ring, glasses on. The last stream of light through the moons valleys create a bright flash of light.

Totality, GLASSES OFF, once the moon covers the sun but make sure to protect your eyes before the end of totality.

Totality, GLASSES OFF, once the moon covers the sun but make sure to protect your eyes before the end of totality.

While we are excited about this rare event, animals however, might act strangely. Sudden darkness can trick animals making them anxious and confused. But we know this is a unique chance to stand in the shadow of a rare celestial event. Miss this and you will have to wait until 2024 for the next one.