Quantcast
Science
Total solar eclipse. NASA

The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017: What, When, How?

Just yesterday at my local supermarket checkout line, I was innocently asked why I needed to pick up a pair of solar eclipse glasses. "Um, because I could go blind," I responded. "You should get a pair, too."

You see, I happen to live on the South Carolina coast, which is right on the path of totality and the last stop of the Great American Eclipse of 2017 (it's unofficial nickname). Many people are getting excited for this special event, and it's clear that some of you have pertinent questions. I'm here to help.


What's happening exactly?

On Monday, Aug. 21, the U.S. will be treated to a celestial spectacle. Those lucky enough to be on the "path of totality"—a 70-mile wide stretch that extends from Oregon to South Carolina—will get to see the sun's disk completely obscured by the moon (weather permitting, of course).

Observers will also get the rare opportunity to look directly at the solar corona, the radiant, outermost part of the sun's atmosphere. NASA says this is the first total eclipse to cross from coast-to-coast since 1918.

The path of totality for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. NASA

Does this mean it go dark?

If you are in an area with a high percentage of obscuration, yes, you will be in near darkness. But it only lasts a few minutes. Those not near the path of totality will see sunlight coming through.

Where and when will it happen?

Lincoln Beach, Oregon gets to see the eclipse begin around 9:05 a.m. PDT. It then crosses through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North and South Carolina. It ends near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT.

Check out this chart for exact details:

But I don't live on the path of totality. Can I still see it?

Very likely! Even if you're not on the path of totality, anyone living in North America can see at least a partial solar eclipse, where it will look like the moon took a chunk out of the sun. If you don't live in the U.S., the northern parts of South America and areas of Europe and Africa will also see a partial eclipse.

Do I really need solar eclipse glasses?

Yes. You could severely damage your eyes if you look directly at the sun. Regular sunglasses, binoculars and camera lenses will not do. You need a pair certified by the ISO 12312-2 international standard that have a special-purpose safe solar filter that blocks solar UV and infrared radiation. Due to reports of counterfeit glasses flooding the market, you'll want check on this Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers page if your viewers comply.

Can I watch the eclipse if I don't have special glasses?

You can remove your glasses or look at the sun with the naked eye only when the sun is totally blocked by the moon.

Don't be tempted to look during any other point—even a tiny sliver of the crescent sun can burn your eyeballs. As Ralph Chou, professor emeritus at the School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of Waterloo in Canada, told Space.com, "I have seen instances where the patient has eventually shown up with crescents burned into the back of the eye, and you can almost tell exactly when they looked."

If you can't get ahold of a pair of eclipse glasses, you can create simple pinhole projectors, a fun project for kids and adults alike. Also NASA will host a live stream which will play on NASA TV, YouTube and other TV stations.

Will traffic be bad?

It's likely. About 220 million Americans are within an hour's drive to states in the path of totality. Some cities are preparing for Superbowl-like conditions with expected congestion and travel delays.

Can I bring my dog to watch the eclipse?

Sure. Your dog, and your cat for that matter, instinctively know not to look directly at the sun and will probably ignore the event, animal experts say.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Mackinac Bridge from Straits of Mackinac. Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Gov. Signs Bill to Keep Line 5 Pipeline Flowing

Michigan's outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation on Wednesday that creates a new government authority to oversee a proposed oil tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac to effectively allow Canadian oil to keep flowing through the Great Lakes.

The controversial tunnel will encase a replacement segment for Enbridge Energy's aging Line 5 pipelines that run along the bottom of the Straits, a narrow waterway that connects Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The illegal La Pampa gold mine, seen here in 2017, has devastated the Peruvian Amazon and spread poisonous mercury. Planet Labs

Unprecedented New Map Unveils Illegal Mining Destroying Amazon

A first-of-its-kind map has unveiled widespread environmental damage and contamination of the Amazon rainforest caused by the rise illegal mining.

The survey, released Monday by the Amazon Socio-Environmental Geo-Referenced Information Project (RAISG), identifies at least 2,312 sites and 245 areas of prospecting or extraction of minerals such as gold, diamonds and coltan in six Amazonian countries—Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. It also identified 30 rivers affected by mining and related activities.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Mako sharks killed at the South Jersey Shark Tournament in June 2017. Lewis Pugh

Shark Fishing Tournaments Devalue Ocean Wildlife and Harm Marine Conservation Efforts

By Rick Stafford

Just over three years ago, I was clinging to a rock in 20 meters of water, trying to stop the current from pulling me out to sea. I peered out into the gloom of the Pacific. Suddenly, three big dark shapes came into view, moving in a jerky, yet somehow smooth and majestic manner. I looked directly into the left eyes of hammerhead sharks as they swam past, maybe 10 meters from me. I could see the gill slits, the brown skin. But most of all, what struck me was just how big these animals are—far from the biggest sharks in the seas, but incredibly powerfully built and solid. These are truly magnificent creatures.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Sen. Joe Manchin and United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts held a press conference on Oct. 3, 2017. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call

Coal-Friendly Manchin Named Top Dem on Senate Energy Panel

After weeks of discord over the potential appointment, Sen. Joe Manchin, the pro-coal Democrat of West Virginia, was named the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Tuesday.

Many Democrats and environmental groups were adamantly opposed to Manchin serving as the top Democrat on the committee that oversees policies on climate change, public lands and fossil fuel production.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Hikers on the Mt. Hollywood Trail in Griffin Park, Calif. while a brush fire burned in the Angeles National Forest on Aug. 26, 2009. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Major Health Study Shows Benefits of Combating Climate Change

During the holiday season, people often drink toasts to health. There's something more we can do to ensure that we and others will enjoy good health now and into the future: combat climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Employees of Rural Renewable Energy Alliance working together with students and faculty of Leech Lake Tribal Collage to construct solar panels, 2017. Ryan James White

A Tribe in Northern Minnesota Shows the Country How to Do Community Solar

By Susan Cosier

Last summer on a reservation in northern Minnesota, students from Leech Lake Tribal College earned their solar installation licenses while they dug, drilled and connected five photovoltaic arrays. The panels shine blue on the plain, reflecting the sky as they generate roughly 235 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to help 100 families pay their energy bills. This is community solar in action.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
Arches National Park. Chris Dodds / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump Auctions Off 150,000 Acres of Public Lands for Fracking Near Utah National Parks

On Tuesday the Trump administration offered more than 150,000 acres of public lands for fossil-fuel extraction near some of Utah's most iconic landscapes, including Arches and Canyonlands national parks.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Vanderford glacier in East Antarctica is one of four that is beginning to melt, according to NASA. Angela Wylie / Fairfax Media / Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Melting Discovered in East Antarctic Region Holding Ice 'Equivalent to Four Greenlands'

Ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica have been melting at alarming rates in recent years, but at least the glaciers of East Antarctica were believed to be relatively stable. Until now. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists have discovered that glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast have lost ice in the past 10 years. If the region keeps melting, it has enough ice in its drainage basins to add 28 meters (approximately 92 feet) to global sea level rise, BBC News reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!