A total solar eclipse experienced by a narrow portion of the contiguous United States in 2017 (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Get those pin-hole projectors and proper viewing glasses ready. On Monday, April 8, a total solar eclipse will occur across the United States. Few celestial events are as dramatic as when the Moon’s silhouetted disk gradually slides across and then completely obscures the Sun. It’s only during totality that the gossamer strands of the Sun’s corona—its incandescent atmosphere—can be seen surrounding a small black circle where the brilliant solar disk should be.
This forthcoming celestial event has created quite a buzz among amateur astronomers and eager “umbraphiles” who are already planning to be positioned somewhere along the path from Mexico and through the United States in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The spring sky show will be a relatively short one—with totality lasting up to 4 ½ minutes
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 the next event safely and successfully.
Beatty is a writer and communicator specializing in planetary science and space exploration. He has led 14 total-solar-eclipse expeditions to locations as varied as Libya, Panama, and Antarctica.