Viewing the 2017 Solar Eclipse

solar_eclipse_1999_4_nrWe are officially one month away from the 2017 solar eclipse! This is an exciting event that only comes around every few decades. The only other time I saw a solar eclipse was in 1989, in Alaska. My memory is more than foggy, but I do remember building pinhole viewers from old boxes. On the day of the eclipse, my dad and I stood on the sidewalk with many neighbor kids, all of us shoving our heads into the boxes. It was exciting, even though I was much too young to know what I was seeing.

The 2017 solar eclipse will occur on Monday, August 21, 2017. It’s being heralded as the Great American Solar Eclipse because it will be visible throughout the contiguous United States. The last time a solar eclipse was visible to the contiguous states was in 1918. So, this will be a sight to see! The total eclipse, where the sun is completely blocked out by the moon will only occur within a narrow band across the U.S. The map below shows the area, in yellow, that will experience the total eclipse. The closer you get to the orange line the darker and longer the eclipse will be.

Map of eclipse totality band
Map of the 2017 eclipse totality band. Click on the image for an interactive version.

If you can’t get close to the narrow band of totality, don’t worry! There will still be a partial eclipse visible throughout. For specific times of the eclipse, check out the resources at the end of this post. Here are some tips to follow for a great viewing:

Pick a viewing spot in advance.
If hotel prices are any indication of popularity, the earlier you make plans the better. Some cities within the totality band are warning residents of a population influx, including power outages and fuel shortages. Talk about doomsday! Your best bet is to pick your spot and keep an eye on the forecast. If the weather isn’t favorable, you may need to have a backup plan. Also, don’t forget that traffic may be heavy too. Pack a lunch and be patient with others!

Order your gear early.
Don’t look directly at the sun! Oh man, that seems obvious, but I’m just going to remind you. There are plenty of options of eclipse viewing glasses and gear for you to buy or make. Some links are provided below in the resources section. Make sure you order early to avoid sell outs or delays that might put a hamper on your eclipse celebration.

Have fun!
An eclipse is best viewed with others, even if that means dragging your co-workers outside!

Resources

  1. NASA Interactive Map — On this site you can select a location and see the time and duration of the eclipse. Great from making plans.
  2. Wikipedia Article about the exlipse
  3. Solar eclipse viewing glasses — This is just an example of one of the products available.
  4. Directions to build your own pinhole viewer
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