A total solar eclipse will take place on August 21, 2017, starting over the Pacific Ocean at 15:46 UTC (08:46 PDT) and moving inland over the continental United States. Although 14 US states will witness the total solar eclipse, regions seeing, at least, a partial eclipse include western Europe, northeast Asia, northwest Africa, Canada, northern South America, and parts of Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic ocean.
A solar eclipse is a celestial event in which the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the Sun for up to about three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location. Although total solar eclipses are visible somewhere on Earth about every 18 months, it is rare for the path of totality to cross exclusively through the continental United States, from coast to coast. That last happened in June 1257 and the next time will be in January 2316. Another solar eclipse will be visible in the continental United States in April 2024, but it will not pass over as many places in the United States as the 2017 event.
The path of totality is a relatively thin ribbon, around 112 km (70 miles) wide, that will cross the US from West to East. The first point of contact will be at Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 16:05 UTC (9:05 PDT). Totality begins there at 17:16 UTC (10:16 PDT).
Over the next hour and a half, it will cross through 14 states, providing more than two minutes of darkness in the middle of the day. Those states are Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.
The total eclipse will end near Charleston, South Carolina at 18:48 UTC (14:48 EDT). From there the lunar shadow leaves the United States at 20:09 UTC (16:09 EDT).
Its longest duration will be near Carbondale, Illinois, where the Sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds.
Total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 - totality path - August 21, 2017. Credit: NASA
Viewers around the world will be provided a wealth of images captured before, during, and after the eclipse by 11 spacecraft, at least three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station – each offering a unique vantage point for the celestial event.
Total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017 - where to watch online
- Live video streams from NASA Television and location across the United States will begin at 16:00 UTC (12:00 EDT) with Eclipse Preview Show hosted from Charleston, South Carolina. "Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyes of NASA" - a show covering the path of totality across the US, from Oregon to South Carolina, will start at 17:00 UTC (13:00 EDT).
- The Virtual Telescope Project will host a free online observing session with views of the total solar eclipse beginning at 17:00 UTC (13:00 EDT).
- Slooh will also cover the eclipse as it travels from sea to sea, broadcasting its view of the eclipse from a perch in Idaho.
- The San Francisco science museum - Exploratorium - will have five live streams of the eclipse filmed in Madras, Oregon, and Casper, Wyoming.
- The Ballooning Project will use its high-altitude balloons to stream videos of the eclipse.
- Time and Life VR will be producing a 360-degree VR livestream of the solar eclipse on Time‘s Facebook and YouTube pages.
- CNN and Volvo will also provide a 360-degree view of the eclipse from various locations along the path of totality. The stream will also be viewable in virtual reality.
If you ever wondered how a total solar eclipse looks from an airplane, or why many people turn solar eclipse chasers once they experience the totality, take a look at the video below:
Featured image credit: Mike Kentrianakis / American Astronomical Society