Rare US total solar eclipse excites Americans coast-to-coast

June 22, 2017 by Jean-Louis Santini
On August 21, 2017, the Earth will cross the shadow of the moon, creating the first US coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years

For the first time in almost a century the United States is preparing for a coast-to-coast solar eclipse, a rare celestial event millions of Americans, with caution, will be able to observe.

During the eclipse on August 21—the first of its kind since 1918—the moon will pass between the sun and Earth, casting a dark shadow and making visible the sun's normally obscured atmosphere, or solar corona, as well as bright stars and planets.

Observers will be able to see the moon's 70-mile (113-kilometer) wide shadow from Oregon in the west to South Carolina in the east over the course of more than two daylight hours, with two minutes of darkness engulfing 14 states.

Almost 12 million Americans live within this strip of the country, while some two-thirds of the nation's population reside within a day's car ride, said Martin Knopp of the Department of Transportation.

The US will be the only country to experience the total eclipse, and international visitors are expected to descend for the event.

Spacecraft, NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons and astronauts aboard the International Space Station will capture images.

"Never before will a celestial event be viewed by so many and explored from so many vantage points—from space, from the air, and from the ground," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

A total eclipse has not covered regions of the contiguous US since 1979. There will be another in 2024, which will cover regions of the country from Texas to Maine.

NASA will broadcast live video of the cosmic event, and watch parties are expected to be held in parks, libraries and stadiums nationwide.

The continental US outside of the total eclipse strip will experience a partial , according to Rick Fienberg, a spokesman for the American Astronomical Society.

NASA has strongly cautioned against directly looking with the naked eye at the sun outside of the total eclipse window.

The only method to safely observe a partially eclipsed sun is with eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers, the US space agency said—ordinary sunglasses are not enough.

And according to Fienberg, even a 99 percent partial eclipse is not nearly as awe-provoking as the total eclipse event.

"It's literally the difference between day and night," he said.

"Going through life without ever experiencing 'totality' is like going through life without ever falling in love."

Explore further: Video: Eclipse ballooning project

Related Stories

Video: Eclipse ballooning project

June 5, 2017

For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse will crossthe entire nation on Monday, August 21, 2017. Over the course of 100 minutes, 14 states across the United States will experience over two minutes of darkness ...

SDO sees partial eclipse in space

May 26, 2017

On May 25, 2017, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, saw a partial solar eclipse in space when it caught the moon passing in front of the sun. The lunar transit lasted almost an hour, between 2:24 and 3:17 p.m. EDT, ...

Image: NASA satellite spots moon's shadow over Patagonia

February 28, 2017

On Feb. 26, 2017, an annular eclipse of the sun was visible along a narrow path that stretched from the southern tip of South America, across the Atlantic Ocean and into southern Africa. Those lucky enough to find themselves ...

Recommended for you

Black hole spin cranks-up radio volume

January 12, 2018

Statistical analysis of supermassive black holes suggests that the spin of the black hole may play a role in the generation of powerful high-speed jets blasting radio waves and other radiation across the universe.

NASA team first to demonstrate X-ray navigation in space

January 11, 2018

In a technology first, a team of NASA engineers has demonstrated fully autonomous X-ray navigation in space—a capability that could revolutionize NASA's ability in the future to pilot robotic spacecraft to the far reaches ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Jun 22, 2017
Reservations for campgrounds in Oregon were completely sold out within 12 hours of becoming available.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2017
Hotels are sold out on the route. Shylocks are selling Chinese-made cardboard eclipse viewing glasses worth $1.00 for $50 a pair.
Mark Thomas
5 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2017
Got a nice room in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but the going rate was 3X normal for minimum 3 night stay. I put down a $1,000 deposit and the hotel sent me certificate that looks good enough for framing! Seems like a bit much to me. Let's just hope the weather holds up the morning of August 21st.

Rrrander, I really worry about people being unprepared and even fake eclipse glasses causing permanent eye damage. I am bringing along some spare eclipse glasses. I bought our eclipse glasses from a NASA-recommended company and tested them many times already, so I would know if there was a problem.
Jun 24, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Jun 24, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Jun 24, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.