This is an exciting astronomical year for North America! On August 21, 2017 there will be a total solar eclipse sweeping across the continent. Since the eclipse will occur during summer vacation, many families are hoping to find a way to view the eclipse with their kids, even while traveling. Other people are planning to chase down the eclipse, traveling across state lines in order to fully experience the effect! Read on to find out how to view the eclipse and when.
What to Expect from a Total Solar Eclipse
A total solar eclipse is when the moon, sun, and earth align. During a total solar eclipse, the moon travels in between the sun and the earth, shielding the sun’s light from shining on earth. When this happens, daylight turns to a strange dusky dimness, even if it’s the middle of a cloudless day.
Partial eclipses are actually pretty common! Most years see at least two of them, believe it or not. However, total solar eclipses are rarer. It’s hard to say exactly how often they happen. The geography, math, and astronomy surrounding total eclipses make this question hard to answer, especially since different places on earth experience total eclipses at different times. Generally, there is a total solar eclipse somewhere on earth every year or two. Most of them happen over the ocean.
However, an eclipse is rarely visible from the same place twice, and it certainly never happens two times in a lifetime. We can estimate that a single geographical location will see this kind of eclipse one every four centuries. So you definitely need to take advantage of the eclipse coming up this August! So where can you see this eclipse? Read on to find out!
Where to See the Eclipse
The total solar eclipse on August 21 will sweep across the northern Pacific Ocean, the length of the United States, down through the edge of the Caribbean, and toward the coast of Africa. The majority of North America and the Caribbean will get at least a partial eclipse, but some places will get a 100% eclipse.
If you want to see the total solar eclipse, there are plenty of places you can visit! The eclipse will enter the United States on the coast of South Carolina. It will travel up through Nashville, Tennessee, then up to St. Louis, Missouri, and out through Kansas City. From there, it will pass through Lincoln, Nebraska, then head northwest though Jackson Wyoming, hit Idaho Falls, and pass just north of Boise. It will sweep across the state of Idaho, then leave the continent through Salem, Oregon.
Although this arc covers the only places on land that will see the total solar eclipse, there are many other places you can enjoy a partial eclipse. You will be able to see a partial eclipse from the Caribbean, Canada, and Central America. A small section of the northeastern coast of South America, the west coast of Africa, and even a tiny bit of Russia will experience a partial eclipse!
While about half the sun will be blocked out from the perspective of viewers in the Leeward Dutch Caribbean, and Northern Canada, the Windward Islands, the rest of the United States and northern Canada will get to see just a bare sliver of sunlight peeking out from behind the moon’s shadow. Now, don’t be disappointed—a partial solar eclipse is still very cool! You certainly don’t get to see that every day. It’s definitely worth planning around, especially if you or your kids have never viewed a solar eclipse before.
How to View the Eclipse from the Caribbean
It won’t be difficult to see the eclipse from any of the aforementioned places, so make plans to view it. The solar eclipse will last about two and a half hours, so make sure you put it on your calendar and check it out when the day arrives.
The upcoming eclipse will occur on Monday, August 21, 2017. Now, there are different time zones within viewing locations, so be sure to look up the right time for viewing. Check here for information about solar eclipse viewing times and locations.
Ways to View the Eclipse
You may never have another chance to see a total solar eclipse, so take advantage of the opportunity. Scientist Lisa Burnett, current Night Sky columnist for The Daily Herald and former teacher at the international school in Defiance, Ohio, remembers the last eclipse that the United States saw:
“Many of the schools closed then because so many families wanted to experience it together. We had an optional day, and it was awesome. We made viewers and the light went very flat. The sky darkened … sort of two dimensional and weird. The kids loved it. There were sketches and photos taken.”
Be sure that you and your family can have an awesome experience like this, too! It’s never a good idea to look directly at the sun, but there are plenty of safe ways to view the eclipse. The easiest is to construct a simple pinhole projector.
How to Make a Pinhole Projector
Do you know how an antique camera works? The concept of a pinhole projector is similar to those outdated yet effective technologies. To construct a projector, you only need two pieces of stiff paper, like a couple of paper plates. You’ll also need a tack or a needle to poke a small hole in one of your papers, which will act as the projector.
Turn away from the sun and allow it to shine through the hole. Then, hold the other piece of paper right in front of the first piece as a screen. You’ll have to hold it at a distance and probably adjust it a bit to get it right, but soon, you’ll be able to see the inverted image of the sun! You’ll also be able to see the shadow of the moon over the sun, which the coolest part of all.
A total solar eclipse is a pretty cool thing to witness! If you’re in an area where the eclipse will be visible, be sure to check it out. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you won’t want to miss!