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A total eclipse is coming on Aug. 21, and you don’t want to miss it. Which is why we’re excited about this tool, which you can use to find out exactly what you’ll be able to see from your zip code.
And not only does this super cool tool from Vox explain how much of the eclipse you’ll be able to see from your neighborhood, but it also gives you the exact time you need to look to see the sun being covered by the moon, and how far you have to drive to have the best view.
Based upon your results, you can then decide if you’d prefer to travel elsewhere to get a better view of the eclipse or stay put where you are.
All you have to do is enter your zip code, and the tool does the rest. It relies on information from the United States Naval Observatory and NASA.
It’s a common misconception that total eclipses are rare, but in fact they happen about twice every year. What’s rare is the chance to see them from Earth’s surface.
And, as it turns out, they’re not all that difficult to predict either.
“Certainly within 100 to 200 years we can predict when an eclipse will occur to within a second,” Fred Espenak, an American astrophysicist and world authority on eclipses, told ABC Science. “But the pattern of occurrence is a complicated one. They don’t repeat on a time schedule like the seasons of the year.”
The eclipse happening in August can be viewed from the entire United States, at least partially, from coast to coast.
In case you’re wondering what a total solar eclipse is exactly, Espenak says that, “With a total eclipse the darkest part of the moon’s shadow sweeps across the Earth’s surface and if you happen to be in the path of that very small shadow, usually 100 to 200 kilometers diameter, you will see the moon completely block the Sun’s disc.”
When you’re viewing the eclipse, it’s essential that you wear protective lenses. And regular sunglasses won’t suffice.
Fortunately, NASA has provided safety tips. According to NASA, five manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard: American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only), Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.
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.
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.
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.
For more information, visit the NASA website.