Next year the continental United States will experience one of nature’s greatest phenomena. August 21, 2017, will be the first time Americans on the mainland will see a total solar eclipse since 1949, and the first coast-to-coast eclipse since 1918. Such a grand spectacle is sure to garner a lot of attention, and with it comes a lot of necessary planning.
Witnessing the Eclipse
A total solar eclipse happens when the Moon passes directly between Earth and the Sun. Even though the Sun is 400 times bigger than the Moon, it’s also (by cosmic coincidence) 400 times farther away. That’s why the Moon just covers the Sun. During the scant minutes of totality, dusk descends in the middle of the day. The sky darkens, animals become quiet, birds go to roost, and the temperature drops.
During totality, spectators can also see the Sun’s corona — the atmosphere composed of ionized million-degree gas. Totality is the only time when it’s safe to look at the Sun without an approved solar filter.
While I haven’t personally witnessed a total solar eclipse, I am certain it is an experience like no other. I’ve met many eclipse-chasers that have splurged hard-earned money just to stand in the Moon’s shadow for a few seconds. So I too am making plans to behold this amazing natural phenomenon — especially because it’s happening right in my backyard.
Getting Ready for the Big Day
Preparing for an event this cosmic is no easy task. It’s estimated that 300 million people live within a 1- to 2-day road trip from the path of totality, where the Moon will fully cover the Sun. While that makes seeing the eclipse incredibly accessible, it also calls for a scheduling nightmare.
Already, cities are preparing for the large influx of visitors and creating destination zones where people can congregate to watch the eclipse. However, keep in mind that most of those visitors will need accommodation, considering they’re coming from distant places. Hotels are already getting booked up.
That means that if you’re interested in witnessing this event, you’d best start planning now. The sooner you plan, the more you can make out of it and the less you’ll have to stress as the day approaches.
Find resources, including safe-viewing information, local circumstances, weather forecasts, and more: Guide to the August 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.