Are you looking forward to the eclipse this year? You should be. According to ABC News (abcnews.go.com), it’s the first time a total solar eclipse has swept the U.S. from coast to coast in 100 years, and the first time one has been exclusively viewable in the U.S. since 1776. That means George Washington was still alive the last time this happened.
So, what exactly is a total solar eclipse? Where is it happening? What should you do to enjoy it? Keep reading. We’ll answer all your questions.
What is a Total Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, blocking the sun’s rays from our site. Sometimes the moon only blocks part of the sun’s light, resulting in a partial solar eclipse. On August 21, 2017, the moon will completely block the sun on a path that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. This is called a total solar eclipse.
Where Can it be Seen?
The path of totality – meaning the path where the total eclipse can be seen – will begin at roughly 9:05 a.m. PDT in Lincoln Beach, Oregon. Spectators in Lincoln Beach will see the solar eclipse in its full state at 10:16 a.m. PDT. From there, the path of totality moves on, cutting a swath across Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North and South Carolina. Its last point of landfall will be in Charleston, SC, and the last moments of totality will be seen at 2:49 p.m. EDT.
Those outside the path of totality will still be able to see the eclipse, but they won’t see a total eclipse, says the Washington Post (washingtonpost.com). If you want to see this rare event, the Post strongly recommends driving to a location within the path of totality.
How to View It
Humans are designed to flinch away from anything causing pain to our eyes. That’s why you can’t look at the naked sun. It’s just too painful to your retinas. But during a solar eclipse, the interruption of the sun’s rays by the moon can make it much less painful to view, but just as damaging to your eyes. That’s why everyone is cautioned to wear protective glasses during the solar eclipse.
It’s only during the brief moments of totality that the sun’s UV rays are completely blocked. If you’re outside the path of totality, you must wear protective glasses during the entire event. If you’re inside the path of totality, you can take your glasses off only during totality. Bear in mind that this may last less than 60 seconds.
According to NASA (eclipse2017.nasa.gov), the longest duration of the totality phase is expected to be over Carbondale, Illinois. Totality should last two minutes and 40 seconds there.
The Stages of the Eclipse
• Partial Eclipse. This is when the moon begins moving in front of the sun, blocking only a portion of its light.
• Diamond Ring. At this point, the moon is nearly covering the sun. Shafts of sunlight stream through the valleys on the moon, creating a bright beam on one side of the moon that looks very much like the diamond on an engagement ring.
• Bailey’s Beads. Immediately after the Diamond Ring and just moments before totality, only the smallest nooks and crannies in the moon’s surface are allowing sunlight to peak through. This creates a dappled, beaded ring of light around one rim of the moon.
• Totality. Now, the moon is completely blocking the disc of the sun. This is the only time you may remove your protective eyewear to view the event with your naked eyes. You’ll be able to see the corona of the sun beaming around the dark sphere of the moon.
• Final Stages. The moon is moving away from the sun and light is growing on the side of the moon opposite from where Bailey’s Beads were visible. This is your signal to replace your glasses.
Where to get Protective Eyewear
The glasses you wear must be certified to protect your eyes during this event. Look for glasses that are ISO 12312-2 compliant, says NASA. Look for them at museums, schools, libraries and astronomy clubs. Because of the prevalence of counterfeit solar eyeglasses, the American Astronomical Society (eclipse.aas.org) has a list of approved vendors on its website. Some of these approved vendors are Walmart, Lowe’s, Toy-R-Us and 7-Eleven.
Don’t Miss the Solar Eclipse
Those who have witnessed this astounding spectacle have said it’s a life-changing event. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to see a total solar eclipse for yourself. If you aren’t in the 70-mile-wide path of the eclipse’s totality, get to a place that’s within it. Check the weather report to rule out cloud cover. Remember to wear protective glasses. Make sure the little ones in your family are wearing theirs, too. It’s going to be a while before an eclipse of this magnitude visits us again, so take advantage of it.