Monday, August 14, 2017

The 2017 Total Solar Eclipse: Fun Facts to Prepare

A map of the United States showing the path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.
Map via

What happens when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, blocking the sun’s rays? A solar eclipse! During a total eclipse of the sun, the sky goes dark for several minutes, the temperature drops, stars appear, birds and other animals can become confused, and people gather outside to see the spectacle for themselves.

On Monday, August 21, astronomy enthusiasts across the United States will be able to view a partial and total eclipse of the sun for the first time in nearly four decades. On the Oregon coast, the total eclipse will be visible at 10:20 a.m. pacific time, while those in Columbia, South Carolina, will need to wait until 2:40 p.m. eastern time before seeing it. After accounting for time zones, the moon’s entire trip will only take one hour and 33 minutes!

Although it’s safe to be outside during an eclipse, it’s not safe to look at the sun while the phenomenon is occurring (or at any other time!) If you want to watch this remarkable event, be sure to use a pair of solar viewing glasses (available at National Parks on the day of the eclipse), use a projection method, or join an eclipse-watching party at your local natural history museum or planetarium.

Eclipses actually happen about every 18 months, but it’s rare for them to follow a path that people can easily see. If you don’t get to watch the eclipse this time, mark your calendar for April 8, 2024, when the next one will be visible in the United States!

Curious to know what the eclipse will look like where you live? Plug in your zip code on an interactive map.

Want more information? Visit NASA’s 2017 eclipse site.