We are now in the home stretch for what is being called the Great American Total Solar Eclipse. Not in 99 years has a total solar eclipse made its way across the continental U.S. and surely it will be one of the most observed total solar eclipses in history.
The last total solar eclipse that I was present for was on February 26, 1998. Nineteen years ago my wife and I took a 7 day cruise and saw the eclipse on board the ship off the coast of Aruba in the Caribbean. Seeing the eclipse at sea was a very special treat indeed. With a flat horizon for 360 degrees it’s easier to see the moon’s shadow build on the horizon, speed toward you at almost frightening speed, over take you and speed away. I vividly recall the emotional response it generated in me and all who were there to see it. No pictures or movies can accurately reproduce this type of event. It simply must be experienced. I learned first hand that day why and how some many people become eclipse chasers. Sounds odd to those who don’t give a second thought about astronomical events but rest assured the experience drives people to see it over and over again. Kind of like a roller coaster junkie or sky diver who lives for the thrill and once seen longs for the next high from his or her obsession.
If you are not lucky enough to live along the path of totality or are not planning to travel to the path of totality and you live in the U.S. then you can still take part in this eclipse minus the totality part. In other words, you’ll still get to see a partial solar eclipse. During all phases of a partial solar eclipse eye protection is a must. Do not look at the sun unless you are using the special eclipse glasses (made of solar grade Mylar). These glasses are available from many retailers across the country. I have seen them at Walmart and Lowes locations here in my area. If you can’t find them you can always order them online. Search “solar eclipse glasses” on amazon.com for a host of sellers. Don’t wait to long. As I mentioned we are getting very close to eclipse day.
Media outlets will be ramping up coverage as we approach eclipse day on August 21, 2017. There will be live streaming coverage on the internet from a host of locations across the country. NASA TV and other cable TV channels will be broadcasting the event as will local stations. That is great if you are trapped inside for the eclipse but if you aren’t then might I suggest getting outside and watching it yourself. You can always review the eclipse coverage via your DVR later.
If you are traveling to the path of totality I’d suggest leaving a day or two early and allowing time to get to your destination. Attempting to travel on eclipse day to see the event might be more troublesome than you initially thought. Traffic will be extremely heavy and gridlock might occur in some places. The last thing you want to do is spend what you thought was going to be fun day with the kids watching the eclipse only to end getting in late and having to rush around or worse watching the eclipse from the car on the side of the highway.
Whatever you end up doing for the Great American Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 I wish you clear skies and hope you are able to take a peak at the event given your busy schedule or better still enjoy totality! And if this one doesn’t work out in your favor then shake it off and start planning for the next one which occurs for us here in the U.S. on April 8, 2024.
If you are needing eclipse data on your location regarding start time, max eclipse and end time as well as what percentage of the Sun will be obscured by the Moon you can go to this special Google map. It allows you to drill down and select your location to produce important eclipse data. It also lists the 2024 eclipse so you can start your planning!