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Something extraordinary will happen on Aug. 21 in the skies above the U.S. mainland. A total solar eclipse will cast the moon’s shadow along a path across the 48 states.
People have been talking about and preparing for this eclipse for more than a year. What makes it so special?
Total Eclipse Viewings In U.S. Are Rare
The last time people in the U.S. saw an eclipse like this, in full totality, was Feb. 26, 1979. Full totality means the sun is completely blocked by the moon. How does this happen?
As we know, the earth and moon travel around the sun. During its travels, sometimes the moon’s path crosses in between the sun and the earth. As a result, the moon blocks the sun’s light from reaching earth. Even though the moon’s diameter is about 400 times smaller than the sun’s, it is also 400 times closer to earth. Therefore, the moon can totally block the sun, despite its size.
Even though a solar eclipse happens about once every 18 months, Americans often don’t see them because of our position on the planet. If we’re not in the direct line of the moon’s shadow, we miss out on the show.
Where Can You See The Solar Eclipse?
Since the moon’s shadow will travel directly across the U.S., visitors will find many places to witness the moon passing in between the sun and Earth. The total eclipse is expected to last up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds, according to NASA.
Here’s a map showing the path of the eclipse’s shadow on Aug. 21.
Some of the largest cities along the “path of totality” include:
- Corvallis, Albany and Lebanon, Oregon
- Idaho Falls, Idaho
- Casper, Wyoming
- Grand Island and Lincoln, Nebraska
- St Joseph, Missouri
- Kansas City, Kansas
- St Louis, Missouri
- Bowling Green, Kentucky
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Columbia and Greenville, South Carolina
Even if you don’t live in these cities, most people across the U.S. will get a partial view of the eclipse. And, if you want to travel to see it better, there are enough locations along the path that are just a one-day drive away.
Staying Safe During The Solar Eclipse
Whether you decide to travel or stay put, remember that watching a solar eclipse requires special equipment. No one should ever look directly at the eclipse as it happens. The sun’s rays can do some serious damage to our eyes.
You can pick up special eclipse glasses or solar viewers via sites like Amazon. These glasses help protect your eyes from the damaging rays. And they are inexpensive: Many are under $15. Yes, they may look like the retro 3D movie glasses from 60 years ago, but they’ll allow you to view one of the coolest astronomy events out there.
The next total eclipse the U.S. will witness won’t be until April 8, 2024.