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There Goes the Sun: A Total-Solar-Eclipse Countdown

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1L0153

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A beautiful phenomenon associated with a total solar eclipse is the "diamond ring”(Photo: Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International /Wilderness Travel

Get those pin-hole projectors and proper viewing glasses ready now. On Aug. 21 a total solar eclipse will occur across the United States.

This forthcoming celestial event has created quite a buzz among amateur astronomers and eager “umbraphiles” who are already planning to be positioned somewhere along a 70-mide-wide corridor that stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic to watch the spectacular natural phenomenon. The summer sky show will be a relatively short one--totality lasts not quite 3 minutes. Its path will cross parts of 14 states, making landfall along the coast of north-central Oregon mid-morning, racing eastward at roughly 1 mile every 2 seconds, and exiting the mainland in mid-afternoon along the Atlantic coast, northeast of Charleston.

This solar eclipse has been a long time coming: The Moon’s full shadow will cross the continental U.S. for the first time since 1979—and it hasn’t traveled coast-to-coast since 1918. Consequently, the event promises to be among the most widely observed in history. It’s certainly the most widely anticipated: Many hotels within the path of totality sold out two years in advance!

Kelly Beatty, senior editor for Sky & Telescope magazine, presents an overview of the nature of solar eclipses, including important past ones in U.S. history, and helpful advice for seeing this year’s event safely and successfully.

Beatty is an award-winning writer and communicator specializing in planetary science and space exploration. He has led 11 total-solar-eclipse expeditions to locations as varied as Libya, Panama, and Antarctica.

Other Connections

To see if your town lies along the path — and to get the times and circumstances no matter where you live — check out the interactive map provided by dedicated eclipse-chaser Xavier Jubier. Two other resources are Dan McGlaun's and Michael Zeiler's

S. Dillon Ripley Center
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