A historic and almost unprecedented event is happening in the United States on August 21. A total solar eclipse will pass over the country for the first time in a century! You never know if you’ll be able to see something like this again — find out how to check it out here!
1. What is a total solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes over the sun, blocking the sun completely. Daylight will turn into twilight, leaving the sun’s atmosphere (corona) visible for just a brief moment. The rare eclipse is happening on August 21, but the time to see it varies for different points in the country. The eclipse will happen around 10:00am PDT on the west coast, and pass over the east coast around 2:30pm ET. The exact viewing times will be available closer to the event.
2. The eclipse passes over 14 states
While some states will get a glimpse of the eclipse — not the total experience — there are 14 states where the astronomical event is officially happening. You’re lucky if you live in: Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Rangers at National Parks are gearing up for an influx of people looking for the most beautiful, clear place to view the eclipse. There’s a list of locations for optimal viewing (see HERE), including the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and Casper, Wyoming. You know it’s good because the Astronomical League is holding their annual conference there just days before the eclipse!
3. It’s the first total solar eclipse over the United States in a century
This event is incredibly rare. The last total solar eclipse over North America happened in 1979. Even rarer, the last total solar eclipse to pass over the entire United States happened 99 years ago, in 1918. You do not want to miss this; it may never happen again in this lifetime!
4. The sky will turn dark during the day while the sun eclipses
In the two minutes when the moon passes completely in front of the sun, the daylight will turn into twilight. It’s a strange moment; birds stop singing, animals start acting weird, and the temperature drops. As the moon moves out of the way, sunlight returns and the day goes on as normal. Seriously, it’s freaky!
5. Spectators need to see the eclipse safely
You’ve probably heard this from adults all your life: do not look directly at a solar eclipse! Only during those two minutes of darkness is it safe to sneak a peek, or you can risk serious eye damage, even blindness. There are ways to view the eclipse safely, though! Some people use a pinhole camera, which filters out the light safely. You can look directly at the eclipse if and only if, you’re wearing solar viewing glasses. These special specs have lenses so dark that you can only see the face of the sun. Be wary, though; make sure that any glasses you buy have the standard ISO 12312-2. If you’re confused by what that means (we are), NASA has a handy dandy guide HERE.
HollywoodLifers, are you going to watch the total solar eclipse on August 21? Let us know!