Americans Will See Total Solar Eclipse in 2017

Where will you be on August 21, 2017? On that date a total solar eclipse will be seen across the entire breadth of the continental United States for the first time in nearly a century.

Global view of 2017's solar eclipse
The path of 2017's total solar eclipse passes directly across the continental U.S. and offers up to 2.7 minutes of totality. Blue lines parallel to the dark track indicate the degree of partial eclipse to be seen elsewhere in the Americas.
Fred Espenak / NASA
Not surprisingly, "2017" is already on the minds of thousands of amateur astronomers across the U.S. and elsewhere. On that August 21st — a Monday, by the way — they'll be positioned somewhere along a narrow corridor that stretches from the Pacific to the Atlantic across the United States and, weather permitting, see a total eclipse of the Sun.

It's been a long time coming. The Moon's umbral shadow hasn't passed over U.S. soil since 1991 (Hawaii) nor across any part of the contiguous 48 states since 1979. Moreover, a total solar eclipse hasn't run coast to coast since 1918! For "umbraphiles" used to traveling thousands of miles to get to the path of totality, the chance of seeing one on home turf has already created a lot of buzz.

This particular event will be of modest duration, offering up to 2 minutes 40 seconds of totality. It belongs to the same 18-year-long saros cycle (number 145) that brought a very similar total eclipse to central Europe (mostly cloudy) and southwest Asia (mostly clear) in 1999. But while not especially long, 2017's eclipse will no doubt introduce tens of millions of Americans to the magic and majesty of totality.

2017 eclipse path across U.S.
In 2017, for the first time since 1918, a total solar eclipse (visible from within the dark gray line) will sweep completely across the United States. Click here the image for a high-resolution version.
Xavier Jubier / Google Maps
As the map here shows, the path will cross parts of 12 states. It makes landfall along coast of north-central Oregon, where it will be mid-morning. Racing eastward at roughly 1 mile every 2 seconds, the lunar umbra cuts through central Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Missouri. The point of "greatest eclipse" is just northwest of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The swath of darkness continues across Tennessee and South Carolina, exiting the mainland in mid-afternoon along the Atlantic coast northeast of Charleston.

To see if your town lies along the path — and to get the times and circumstances no matter where you live (everyone in the continental U.S. will enjoy a deep partial eclipse) — check out the interactive eclipse map provided by NASA and the one by eclipse enthusiast Xavier Jubier. Another excellent resource is Dan McGlaun's eclipse2017.org

Cloud cover map for August 21st
Not all locations are equally likely to see totality. This plot shows the statistical likelihood of cloud cover on August 21st across the U.S. Click on the map for a larger version and more climatological details.
Jay Anderson
Of course, all this occurs "weather permitting." Canadian meteorologist Jay Anderson has already taken a look at the chance for clear skies on eclipse day, based on cloud-cover statistics drawn from historical records. Based on his analysis, your best bets would be a relatively remote stretch in north-central Oregon or a big swath through the U.S. heartland running from Nebraska to Tennessee.

So where will you be on August 21, 2017? Post a comment below to let us know. I'm already making plans — but for now my whereabouts on that day are a closely guarded secret! In any case, you can be sure that Sky & Telescope will provide complete coverage of the Great American Eclipse as the date draws nearer.

9 thoughts on “Americans Will See Total Solar Eclipse in 2017

  1. John

    I’ve been planning the 2017 totality ever since I returned from Zambia 2001 where I witnessed the first total eclipse of the new millenium.
    I plan to be at Jackson Wyoming. Good weather conditions and close to Grand Teton national park and Yellowstone NP.

    Just returned from Grand Canyon’s annular eclipse.
    Attractive event but nothing like totality !

  2. John

    I’ve been planning the 2017 totality ever since I returned from Zambia 2001 where I witnessed the first total eclipse of the new millenium.
    I plan to be at Jackson Wyoming. Good weather conditions and close to Grand Teton national park and Yellowstone NP.

    Just returned from Grand Canyon’s annular eclipse.
    Attractive event but nothing like totality !

  3. Mike

    Thanks for posting this. I honestly wasn’t aware of this one coming up. The second figure says to click (somewhere) for a high-resolution version, but there’s no link and nothing to click.

  4. Larry Koehn

    99.99% of the people in Kentucky (and I guess the rest of the world) think the Greatest Eclipse (GE), near Hopkinsville Kentucky is also the location of longest duration of totality. Having communicated with Xavier Jubier, Michael Zeiler, Bill Kramer, and Fred Espenak by way of email in the past two months, they said the longest duration will be near a small town in Illinois called Murphysboro. GE will basically in the same spot, but according to Michael Zeiler, the other day, the GE has been recalculated to be a few kilometers north of the current location in Kentucky (which he is still working on). Why?

    For a total eclipse, the two points are normally close (GE when a circular moon is used to calculate duration and the "modern" Bessel method is employed (includes updated Earth corrections). When the lunar profile is included in the duration calculations, the points can fall over a hundred miles different. Information from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)has added to that knowledge about the lunar profile. In this case, 2017, the two points are now standing roughly 106 miles apart.

    Xavier Jublier told me that he and Michael Zeiler are currently working on the math and maps for this year’s hybrid eclipse over Africa in November. He said he would get back with me about the new maps for 2017 eclipse later this fall! I would love to see a finalized map for 2017 with the new numbers and coordinates!

  5. Merrill JenkinsMerrill Jenkins

    I plan on viewing the eclipse from my front yard in Cedar Hill, MO. The center of the path of totality will pass 10 miles to the southwest of my house. I never would have thought I would have ever had a chance to experience a total solar eclipse. I’m really looking forward to this.

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