Total Solar Eclipse 2017: Everything You Need to Know

On August 21, millions of people across the United States will get a chance to see one of nature’s greatest, and rarest spectacles — a Total Solar Eclipse.

The Moon completely blocks the Sun, daytime becomes a deep twilight, and the Sun’s corona shimmers in the darkened sky.

It will be the first time in nearly a century that this phenomenon will span from coast to coast, and it might very well be the most-viewed and heavily studied total solar eclipse in history.

Besides the scientific significance of this event, there will be countless festivals and eclipse viewing parties and events, as this is definitely something that you don’t want to miss out.

Today we would like to share some interesting facts and tips so you can truly enjoy this event. If you are not in the mood for this one, you can always wait for the next solar eclipse in the US that will be April 8, 2024.

Back to School: So what’s happening anyway?

Full solar eclipses happen when the moon aligns itself between the Sun and the Earth, blocking the sunlight. It occurs every few years but it often is only visible from remote areas or the open ocean.

“But hey, if the Moon is way smaller than the Sun. How can it cover it up?”

The diameter of the Sun is 400 times that of the Moon but it lies 400 times further away – which means if you are in exactly the right alignment on the surface of the Earth at the right time, you will see the two celestial bodies overlap exactly.

Credit: Vox

During the total eclipse, you’ll be able to see the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona. It will look like delicate threads of light emanating from the solar disc.

This will be the perfect time for NASA and other researchers to study the corona, which serves as the origin for solar flares and charged particles that stream outward from the Sun. It’s poorly understood because it’s difficult to observe but the eclipse will give the perfect opportunity to observe the solar atmosphere.

The Great American Eclipse

The “path of totality”, where the light of the sun is completely blocked out by the moon, will pass from Oregon to South Carolina in 93 minutes. It will begin about 09:05 am PDT and ends at 2:49 pm EDT.

A stretch of land about 70 miles wide will be plunged into twilight. The lucky ones in this path will be able to view a total solar eclipse that can last up to 2 mins and 42 seconds.

NASA Path of Totality

Image courtesy of Nasa

NASA shares maps for all the states in the path of the eclipse. You can take a look and see how far are you from it. You still have time to plan something out….

More than 12 million Americans live in the path of totality and more than half of the nation lives within 400 miles of it. Eclipse chasers (yeap, there is such a thing) are also expected to travel to the path of totality to witness this marvel.

If you are not in the path, you will still be able to view and enjoy a partial solar eclipse. Vox has a very nifty map of how much coverage you’ll see depending on your USA area code.

Northern parts of South America and some areas of Europe and Africa will see some form of the eclipse. If you are in any other location, NASA will be hosting an “Eclipse Megacast” on August 21st for about four hours.

Eclipse Safety

If you are wondering if you need to have any protection to safely view the eclipse, the answer is a sound YES!

Never look directly at the Sun, even through sunglasses or dark material such as a bin liner or photographic negative. They don’t filter the harmful infrared radiation that can burn the retina of the eye, risking permanent eye damage and blindness

Credit: Washington Post

You should wear special eclipse viewing glasses – not ordinary sunglasses – or construct a simple pinhole camera which projects an image of the Sun onto a blank piece of paper.

The only time you can look directly at the eclipse without shielding your eyes is during totality. Only then.

NASA Solar Eclipse Safety

Image courtesy of Nasa

NASA has provided a list of reputable vendors for solar filters and viewers. NASA recommends only purchasing glasses that have an ISO icon and reference ISO 12312-2 as you can see in the image below:

NASA Solar Eclipse Safety Glasses

Image courtesy of Nasa

If you don’t want to buy eclipse glasses, there are some alternative and safe methods to view the eclipse that won’t put your sight at risk.

Have a look at the overall safety information:

  • Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter.
  • Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After looking at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury.
  • If your eclipse glasses are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard, you may look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through them for as long as you wish.

Are you ready now? Hope to see you in the twilight!

Have you ever witnessed a full or partial solar eclipse? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

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