Total Solar Eclipse 2017
Monday, 21 Aug 2017
The path through the United
...and what you'll see if you're in it!
There will be several eclipses that pass over the US in the 21st century. This is only the first,
but it has been a long time coming! If you miss this one, you will only need to wait seven years for another, it's
true - but why wait?! And besides, the eclipse in 2024 will also be visible from Mexico and Canada (in fact, Mexico
is really a better place to watch that one from!). So come on out for this one, and enjoy what will truly be considered
People from all over the world begin to converge on the United States. Except for people returning home, visiting
family, or conducting business at what happens to be just exactly the right time in history, these will be people
who make it a point to travel to wherever the moon's shadow is going to touch the earth, and position themselves
in a spot carefully chosen - sometimes years in advance - to ensure they see the sight.
These people will make contingency travel plans in case of last-minute clouds. These people will fill hotel rooms,
sometimes inadvertently displacing locals from their homes as space gets harder to come by. These people will travel
through miles of desert or forest or frozen wasteland, braving the harshest of conditions...for a short glimpse
at the eclipsed sun.
These people are coming to America, because for the first time in 26 years, a total solar eclipse will occur in
our great country, and we will play host to the world's eclipse-chasers. For those of us who already live here,
but have never seen an eclipse, this is the opportunity of a lifetime - to see the most beautiful thing on the
planet, and maybe not even have to get on an airplane to get to it!
Friday, August 18, 2017
Almost everyone who plans to see the eclipse will be in position. Foreign visitors will be be wrapping up their
sightseeing tours of our country, and getting to their selected viewing areas early to ensure that no travel glitches
have an opportunity to deprive them of their true goal. Cities along the path who have decided to create official
eclipse viewing areas will have their focus set to logistics, ensuring the comfort, enjoyment and safety of their
guests. People who have converged on those sites to view the eclipse will begin the countdown to eclipse day, as
final preparations are made to ensure that photography equipment, filters, chairs, tables, telescopes, TV monitors,
webcast equipment, hats and sunscreen are all at the ready for the big day!
Last-minute weather forecasts are checked, and anyone with the slightest fear of clouds on eclipse day will invoke
their travel contingencies. Weather monitoring will proceed around the clock, with live updates issued hourly so
as to best prepare eclipse-chasers who will need to move at a moment's notice. Nothing will stand in the way of
seeing the eclipse!
The party begins....
Saturday and Sunday, August 19-20, 2017
Last-minute travelers will get in place, as well as those who have had to fight their own travel glitches, and
make alternate arrangements to get here. Some will have missed their pre-eclipse tours, but that's OK- as long
as they're in the path by Sunday night, all is OK. The worry can then focus on equipment, mental preparedness,
Scientists and amateur photographers who will be recording the event go over their preparations one last time.
Sequences of events and actions that have been planned years in advance, and practiced countless times to ensure
mastery, will be practiced one last time. All batteries will be replaced with new ones. All film will be double-
and triple-checked. Everything will be set up, taped down, sealed against the dew, and put to bed for the last
time. Tomorrow is the big day, and nothing can go wrong.
Monday, August 21, 2017 - before sunrise
No human action can disrupt the incessant dance of the cosmos, and the moon's shadow will not wait on you if you're
not ready. Like a mindless juggernaut, it plows its way through space toward a collision course with earth. As
predicted by the astronomers decades in advance, the shadow arrives with perfect accuracy, and touches down in
the north Pacific Ocean at 16:48:33 UT*, at local sunrise. (At that spot, the sun will actually rise while eclipsed.
This is a sight few people - even veteran eclipse chasers - have seen, and from what we hear, it is quite uncanny.)
A minute later, the entire shadow (the "umbral cone") will have made landfall -- er, ocean-fall -- and
will be racing across the surface of the water at supersonic speed. Except for folks on ships at sea, and the occasional
ocean-dwelling critter who dares to venture too near the surface, nothing sentient will note the passing of the
umbra - until land gets in the way.
And that land will be United States soil. On the beach in Oregon,
at a rocky spot of ground just north of Newport that sticks its nose out into the Pacific, the shadow first touches
land at 17:15:50.6UT (at about 10:15 in the morning), and this lucky piece of earth experiences a full minute and
fifty seconds of totality.
The actual centerline of the eclipse path hits solid ground a full six seconds later, and plunges Lincoln Beach
and Depoe Bay into darkness for 1m58s!
It takes only about two minutes for the shadow to race eastward toward its first date with a large population of
folks who will be breathlessly awaiting its arrival. Dallas, Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon, Philomath, McMinnville, Woodburn, and yes, Salem itself, experience
various lengths of totality (based on their varying distances from the centerline); on the steps of the State Capitol
in Salem (the first of five State Capitals the shadow will visit), lucky viewers will be treated to1m54.5s of shadow
at just after 10:17am. Great time for a coffee break!
The great city of Portland
is NOT in the path of totality! If you're there, or in Eugene, you will not get the full meal
deal! Get south, and get yourself into the shadow!
The eclipse then leaves our most western friends, and travels through the forests of central Oregon, hitting the
mountains at Madras and Warm Springs at about 10:19. Mitchell and Prairie City are next, and the shadow leaves
Oregon just north of Ontario. (Actually, Ontario gets 1m23s of totality at 11:25am MDT, but folks there would be
better served to head north to the rest area north of Huntington on I-84, or into Idaho on US 95 between Midvale
and Weiser, for better than 30 seconds more totality! Soak them up; those seconds in the shadow are precious!!!)
On to Idaho, where Stanley and Mackay are the first recipients of lots of shadow. Idaho Falls is south of the centerline, so it only basks in the umbra for 1m49s at 11:33am.
Rexburg does much better, getting 2m17s at the same time.
The highest point in Idaho - Borah Peak - is in totality, and that might not be a bad place to be for the more
But that's it for Idaho - Boise
and Pocatello are
NOT in the path of totality! Do not stay home, and think you're getting a good show, because you're
not! Get north, and get into the shadow!
The first of the two states where no populated areas see the shadow. We're not kidding here - there are no roads,
no towns, no named areas of any kind that will see totality. Only a tiny chip of a tiny fraction of a tiny part
of the tiniest southwestern tip of the beard of Montana will see totality. No, not Monida, Lima, or Dell - we're
talking much further southwest
than that! Less than eight square miles of this monster state lie in the path. Only trees - and critters
- will see this eclipse from here.
One of the saddest things about this eclipse is that our first National Park lies just outside the edge of totality!
Without a question, this wonderful, exhilarating landscape would have provided the perfect spot for viewing nature's
most awesome spectacle, if only the moon had been positioned a little differently. However, Yellowstone's loss
is Grand Teton's gain; the boundary separating those two great parks is just about coincident with the Northern
limit of the path! This makes the southern part of Grand Teton National Park one of the best places in the entire country to position yourself
to view this event! On the centerline, the Park will experience 2m20s of totality at about 11:35am. Weather permitting,
for folks who want to experience nature while surrounded by nature, this may just be "The Place To Be"....
Moving onward, the shadow blesses Pavillion (at 11:38), and Shoshoni and Riverton (at 11:39) with 2m 23s of the
great show, before landing squarely on the city of Casper. The centerline passes right over the intersection of
highway 220 and S. Poplar Street at 11:42:34am, and gives viewers there 2m26s of totality!
Douglas and Glendo round out the list of larger towns that experience totality. Note that if you're in Wheatland,
you're right on the southern edge of the path. You need to get north, to get as much totality as you can!
The eclipse path really shines in this great midwestern state, cutting across endless miles of prairie, lots of
good-sized cities, and one more state capitol! Take a long lunch hour, and see an eclipse! Alliance (2m30s at 11:49am)
and Scottsbluff (1m43s at 11:48am) are the first larger cities to see the shadow, and North Platte (1m40s at 12:54pm
CDT) hugs the southern edge. Folks there should hop up US83 to Stapleton, to get more than two and a half minutes!
Moving east, the shadow engulfs Hastings at 12:58pm (for 2m13s of totality), but Grand Island (22 more seconds!)
is an even better place to be!
Omaha is not in the path! Get down to
Lincoln, or better
yet, farther south toward Beatrice (2m35s at 1:02pm), for a better show! Speaking of Lincoln, this second capitol
city in the path lies near its northern edge, so totality is shorter there - only 1m 25.5s (at 1:02pm) on the grounds
of the beautiful State Capital. The 50-yard-line at Husker stadium gets five seconds less time in the shadow, so
you can see how important it is to get as far south as you can!
To give you an even better idea of how important your location is when you're this near the edge, you need look
no further than the airport at Lincoln: Planes waiting to take off on the departure end of runway 17 (at the north
end of the runway) will get only 1m7s of totality, while those at the south end of the runway (if traffic is departing
on 35 that day) will get 18s more!!! Don't laugh - when you see the beauty of the eclipse, you will wish like anything
that you had eighteen more seconds to see this most glorious sight!
The shadow leaves the capitol, and the centerline then passes over Falls City at 1:04pm. The path's great trek
through the Cornhusker State, after having traveled its entire length in only eight minutes(!), will be over at
The path travels through the very far NE corner of the Sunflower State, and the centerline passes right over Troy
at 1:05:55pm. Folks there will enjoy 2m38s of totality! Atchison (2m16s at 1:06pm), Hiawatha (2m31s at 1:05pm)
and Seneca (2m14s at 1:04pm) are other cities from which to enjoy this magnificent show!
Yes, Levenworth is in the path as well, but you'll only see 1m35s there, so I'd head north to St. Joseph MO! (That
is, if you can. We realize that certain residents of Leavenworth may be somewhat limited in their travel opportunities...)
Topeka is NOT in totality! Head north and east to get into the path!
We list Iowa here because only about three square miles (no, we didn't measure it) of the far southwestern tip
of the state lies in the path. Not much
totality here - Hamburg doesn't get any, and neither does any of I-29 in the state of IA. I wouldn't go here
to see it unless you live here, and can't move south and west.
NOTE: Just because Iowa is listed here doesn't mean that if you're in Iowa, you should stay here to see the eclipse!
Only like ten people probably live in the small chip of the state that sees the shadow! Please don't think that
if you live in Iowa, you'll see the eclipse!
The eclipse's trek through this great state is one of the more interesing, because more people will see the eclipse
here by default, than anywhere else along the path. That's because Kansas City and St.
Louis are partially in the path of totality! That's right, even though these cities are both split in half
by the path, and it would be much better for people to get out of town to get a longer time in the shadow, the
truth of the matter is that many people will be at home or at work, and lots of them will see the eclipse from
their homes and offices in these two great cities.
Because KC and STL are so big, and because they are split by the path, we can't give more than a passing reference
to actual totality durations. Suffice it to say that you will only see a brief totality there, so if you can, get
farther into the path! People in KC need to head north, and in STL, head south. Out of town, if you can, in both
cases! But certainly, please try to get to the southern edge of STL, or the northern edge of KC, and see an unbelievable
Recommendations for KCers: Any of the parks on the north side, like Hodge Park. Or better yet, any of the beautiful
parks around Smithville Reservoir, or maybe even on a boat! Take a long weekend, and see an eclipse!
For St. Louis folks, just head south and west as far as you can. Within 270, you can head to Jefferson Barracks
or Clydesdale parks; if you can get out a little farther, then Lone Elk, Castlewood, or Greensfelder parks would
be good. As close as you can get to St. Clair (SW) or Festus (S) will be all the better for the amount of time
you get to see the eclipse.
St. Joseph gets a whopping 2m38s of totality at 1:06:26pm! At 1:08, the shadow's southern edge will hit Kansas
City, but as we've said, folks there should have hightailed themselves to Carrollton (2m37s at 1:09pm), Marshall
(2m39s at 1:10pm), or Lathrop (2m30s at 1:07:45pm) for more of the show. Anyone staying behind will get a beautiful
sight of Baily's Beads along the bottom of the sun's eclipsed disk. This in itself will be awe-inspiring, and will
somewhat compensate for the lack of duration of totality.
Columbia gets 2m36s at 1:12pm, and the path hits its third State Capitol, on the banks of the mighty Missouri River,
at 1:14:19pm. Legislators returning from lunch will see a 2m29s total eclipse on the steps of the Capitol building
in Jefferson City.
Continuing on through the Show-Me State, the path crosses St. Clair at 1:15:40pm (2m40s of totality). The southern
part of St. Louis lies in the path, but here is one of the greatest challenges we face in getting as many people
as possible to view this total eclipse: Downtown St. Louis, the Arch, Busch stadium, and Lambert airport,
are NOT in the path! People here need to get south or southwest in order to see totality, and it
will fall to the good people of Hillsboro (2m39s at 1:16:40pm), DeSoto (2m40s at 1:16:46pm), Union (2m37s at 1:15:33pm),
St. Clair (2m40s at 1:15:40pm) and Festus (2m37s at 1:17pm), to host them! These lucky towns get lots of time in
If you stay in these very popular parts of the city, you will not see totality. What you see may look cool to you,
but trust me - it will not compare to what people only a few miles south of you will see! Head south, and see totality!
Farmington (2m12s at 1:17:40pm) lies farther south, and Cape Girardeau only gets 1m38s of totality, as it lies along the southern edge of the path.
This occurs at 1:20:25pm.
Chicago is not in the path - not even close! The far southern tip of the state is the only part that
sees totality, but it gets a lot! Murphysboro (2m40s at 1:19:30pm), Carbondale (2m38s at 1:20pm) and Marion (2m28s
at 1:20:40pm) are prime viewing locations, but those are really the only places to consider. Cairo and Mt.
Vernon are outside the path - no totality here!
And for those of you in Evansville, IN - so sorry, but this eclipse just barely passes you by. (You'll get your
turn at totality in 2024!)
Here is where it really gets interesting. Kentucky boasts the longest period of totality of anywhere in the entire
path! This occurs at a spot just northwest of Hopkinsville, at 1:24pm - a full 2m40s of totality! True, this isn't
the longest eclipse on record, but it's long enough! And this huge amount of totality is enough of an incentive
to consider this part of the world as your preferred site for viewing the eclipse!
But first things first. The shadow passes over Paducah at 1:22pm, and observers there will see 2m20s of totality.
The Land Between the Lakes is a wonderful spot to view the eclipse from, and the farther north you are here, the
better! Eddyville gets 2m39s at 1:23pm. After that, Hopkinsville lies right on the centerline, and (as we said
above) enjoys 2m40s of totality at 1:24:41pm.
Franklin (2m26s at 1:26:48pm) and Russellville (2m29s at 1:26pm) are other good spots from which to see the shadow.
lies in the path, but it is on the northern edge, and folks here are advised to head to Hopkinsville, or down I-65
Mammoth Cave and Murray are not in the path, and neither are Louisville or Lexington. This show belongs
to the far southwestern part of the Commonwealth, and you are urged to get there and be a part of it all!
Ah, Nashville. Home
to the Grand Ol' Opry, and mecca for country crooners worldwide. But on this day, the great Capitol of Tennessee
has a new claim to fame - a total eclipse! That's right - after blocking out the sun for the fine citizens of Clarksville
(2m17s at 1:25pm - and don't forget about the fine folks at Fort Campbell!), Springfield (2m36s at 1:26pm), Portland
(2m37s at 1:27), and Westmoreland (2m28 at 1:27), the shadow pays a visit to the crown jewel of Country! It could
be better - Nashville lies close to the southern edge of the path, so it doesn't get as much totality as we'd like,
but all the city limits, and most of the suburbs, will bask in the shadow! Residents of Franklin and Kingston Springs
will be left out of totality, and Brentwood lies just inside the path, so people there should head northeast. But,
on the grounds of the State Capitol, people will see 1m54s of totality at 1:27pm - a very respectable eclipse!
And, heading northeast to the grounds of the Grand Ol' Opry, folks along beautiful Briley Parkway will see 2m13s
(also at 1:27)!! If you're in Lebanon, you can stay put, because you'll enjoy 2m24s a minute later!
The rest areas on I-40, just west of the exit at Buffalo Valley, are right on the centerline, by the way!
Murphreesboro is yet another of those nice, big towns that lie right on the edge of the path. Sparta and Baxter
lie right on the centerline, so you might want to head out there to see the show!
Crossville (2m31s at 1:31pm) is the last larger town the path hits within the Central Time Zone, and as the shadow
hops the mighty Tennessee River, residents of Dayton will experience 2m21s at about the same time (except that
there, it'll be 2:31pm!).
Residents of Cleveland, beware! Your town is right on the southern
edge of the path, and you should consider hopping north to Athens or Sweetwater. Residents of Chattanooga, ditto,
except that if you stay put, there'll be no show at all for you! Got that? Chattanooga is not in the path, and neither is Knoxville! Well, the very far southern suburbs of Knoxville are, but you won't get
much totality, and who wants that? I-75 south is your best friend - take advantage of it! Here is a little more detailed map of Knoxville. Everyone at the University of Tennessee in
Knoxville should hold class a few miles farther south, and enjoy the eclipse!
We'll talk about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park down in the section on North Carolina, but for now, suffice
it to say that Clingman's Dome would be a great place to see totality from!
We know, we know, the path hits North Carolina next, but we felt like talking about Georgia first. Mainly, we wanted
to say that Atlanta
is not in the path of totality, and this is a huge shame. So many people will be at work, when they should
have taken a long weekend, gotten themselves up north, and into the path! I-85 seems to be the best route here,
to get people up into South Carolina where they can see the show. But there are lots of other options: I-75 way
north, or US19 or US23 up into TN or NC, will get you there. Whatever you folks in Hot'Lanta do with yourselves
on the big day, though, make the eclipse a part of it! Get north out of town, and into the shadow!
So, where to see the eclipse from in the Peach State? Well, the centerline of the path just barely ticks the tiniest
little northeastern corner of the state, and runs about 12 miles between the borders of TN and SC. Clayton (2m34s
at 2:35:45pm) is a nice county seat close to the centerline, but Toccoa (only 2m2s of totality) is a little bigger
town. Don't think you're gonna see it from Athens, though, or Gainesville, or Augusta - this isn't your eclipse,
guys! If you insist on staying within Georgia to see the eclipse, we'd suggest Black Rock Mountain State Park.
You'll see about 2m36s of totality there.
Again, here is a state that will have only a fraction of its area hit by the shadow - but what an area! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or at least, the western part
of it, lies in the path of totality! If you can't get to the Tetons, here is perhaps just as wonderful a spot to
watch the eclipse from! But you have to be careful here - the whole park is not in totality, and the park is so
big, that it really depends on where you are as to how much you get! We already talked about Knoxville not getting
totality - well, Gatlinburg is outside the path completely! In fact, if you're east of that big north-south road
that cuts the park in two (is it 441 or 71?), then you won't see any totality at all. Get as far west as you can,
out to the mountains in the western part of the park. On the southern edge, Waynesville is a no-no - get farther
west to Bryson City or even farther west to Santeetlah Lake. You get the idea.
If National Parks and eclipse-watching don't go together for you, then you can also see totality in Murphy (2m26s
at 2:34pm) or Franklin (2m30s at 2:35). Other than that, all we can say is that Charlotte is not in the path!
Get into SC, down to Greenville or Columbia!
Oh yes, Ashville is also not in the path!
All good things must come to an end, and at 2:36:02pm, the shadow of the great 2017 total eclipse first touches
the final state in its path. South Carolina also brings us the fifth state capitol to be immersed in shadow, and
several large cities will be able to play host to eclipse-chasers from all over. Greenville is a very large city,
and it is fully in shadow by 2:38pm. Its sister city of Spartanburg, however, is split by the path - you'll want
to head west, and enjoy Greenville's 2m14s of totality.
Greenwood (2m28s at 2:39) is next on the list of bigger cities to see totality, and then Columbia is treated about
two minutes later. The Capitol Building gets just a hair under 2m30s, and would be a great place for workers to
take an afternoon shadow-break!
Here is a map of the Greenville-Spartanburg
area, to show you what's going on here.
Sumter lies in the path, as do big, beautiful lakes Marion and Moutrie - right on the centerline!! Get out on the
boat and soak it in!
The last large city to see the 2017 eclipse will be Charleston.
It lies on the southern edge of the path, but because folks in Mt. Pleasant will get over two minutes, Charlestonites
should head northeast!
The centerline then cuts across US17, just south of the last city to see the shadow - McClellanville, SC. From
there, the shadow will take its leave of the last piece of American soil at 2:49:07.4pm. Quite appropriately, the
spot is a long, isolated beach on a barrier island at the
tip of a Wildlife Preserve - Cape Romain, just east of McClellanville.
Amazing, isn't it? The swath of the shadow will touch the United States for only 1h 33m 16.8s - less than the length
of a short movie! But in that time, many, many people in our country will have had their perceptions, and their
lives, changed forever. It's that kind of a sight. Please plan to be there, in the path, together with a few hundred
thousand other converts! You'll be joining many thousands of your fellow citizens in immediately asking "When's
the next one?"!
And that's it. From there, the shadow continues on, out over the Atlantic Ocean, not to touch any more land before
deftly lifting off the earth's surface near Africa at just after 20:00UT. The shadow, that excited so many people
in our great country, will continue out over open water for another hour and a half, travelling farther over the
great expanse of blue than it did over our land. It will impress no more people in this part of its journey, but
it will have left in its wake a new generation of eclipse-addicts, and a bevy of newly-fixed veteran junkies --
all of whom will be hugging each other, replaying the spectacular movie of totality in their minds, and promising
themselves and each other to be present for the next one -- no matter where, no matter when.
(Just for the record, "the next one" will be on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. You can see it on land at sunset,
from either Chile or Argentina - wherever you want. But for me, it'll be my daughter's twenty-first birthday, and
she's got dibs on me -- I promised her a South Pacific cruise to totality when she was six!)
What you'll see
The above is a nice narrative of the path from the shadow's point of view, but what about us? What about the
person who is standing in one spot, waiting for the shadow to overtake and engulf them? What will they see?
Well, we always tell people that seeing an eclipse is like having children: If you don't have them, we'll never
be able to explain what it's like. And if you do, then we won't have to!
But that doesn't mean we won't try anyway...!
Leading up to totality
If you're not in the path
Onset of Totality
The Edge of Totality
(Note: We mention "filters" throughout this discussion. What we're talking about is the special filter
material that is made specifically for viewing the sun through. This filter material is made by several companies,
and can be found in many different forms - from eclipse
glasses to sheets that can be cut and made into customized filters for cameras, telescopes, and binoculars, and solid glass filters for use with large telescopes. If you are going to try to do anything more
than buy a couple of pairs of eclipse
viewing glasses, then we would suggest you visit some of the wonderful sites on the internet that will show
you some of the photographic and visual uses of this amazing material! But do NOT try to improvise your own material
- ONLY use filter material that has been specifically manufactured and sold as safe for direct solar viewing!)
Obviously, you have to be able to see the sun if you want to see the eclipse. If your area's forecast looks cloudy
in the days and hours before the eclipse, you should plan to go somewhere else to see it. People travel thousands
of miles to see eclipses, and so hopefully you'll be able to get in your car and travel a few hundred. Check the
weather, and plan accordingly. But get yourself to where you're in the path, and the
weather looks good! Plan ahead for the "C-word" contingency, in case you have to make a hotel reservation,
or other travel logistics. Your efforts will be rewarded, and all trouble and expense forgotten, once you see the
Leading up to totality
Hopefully, you will have situated yourself in an open area with lots of friendly people, having a good time and
waiting to see one of the most amazing spectacles in nature. Your location must be inside the path of totality
in order for you to get the whole show. Please visit the maps and ensure that you are in
the dark band! The closer to the blue centerline you are, the more totality you will get. Make sure you have a
clear view of not only where the sun is now, but where it's going to be in a few hours. One thing you might also
consider is to ensure that you have a clear, unobstructed view of the entire western horizon. You'll find out why
And, please, don't set up on private property without permission, lest you be forcibly forced to vacate at the
last minute! Be respectful of local laws and regulations, as well; if the local government has set up an official
viewing area, then that's one of the best places for you to be. Rest Areas on interstates might be possible viewing
locations, as would State Parks and other public lands. If we at eclipse2017.org have done our jobs well, your
local newspapers, radio and TV should have all the info you need to know where to go. And, as we hear about official
viewing sites, we'll be sure to post them for you as well.
Wherever you're headed, get there well before first contact, and get the party started! A word of caution, though:
There may be many professional-looking people there with you, who have all sorts of equipment set up. Feel free
to talk to them, ask questions, ask whether you can look through their scopes, etc. They will be very friendly
and open with you, and will be glad to indulge your curiosity...except during the minutes leading up to
totality. But they will absolutely not be tolerant of your children running wild, your dogs knocking over (or doing
worse things to) their equipment, you getting drunk and bumping into stuff, or anything like that. In other words,
please respect everyone else's right to enjoy the eclipse in their own way, and treat the area around anything
expensive-looking as very sterile. You and everyone else will have a much better day if you follow this simple
bit of advice! Remember, most of the setups you see have been planned meticulously for years, with many
parts being hand-built and customized. Money, apologies and lawsuits will not replace these things (or the opportunity
lost), and there are no second chances to run any experiments the equipment's owners might have been planning.
We are used to the threat of lawsuits in this country substituting for good old-fashioned respectful behavior,
but in this case, truly the best way of resolving differences is never to have any in the first place.
You will want to have several things with you: A head covering and sunblock (you'll be out in the sun for at least
2-3 hours), chairs and blankets, tables for any equipment you've brought (though all you really need are your eyes),
sunglasses, a proper set of solar filters or viewing
glasses (you must use these for ALL phases of the eclipse except for totality itself), lots of water
to drink, and a good attitude - this day will be remembered fondly for the rest of your life, and you really do
want to have fun! And please, save the booze for after 3rd contact - it's what all veteran eclipse chasers do!
Even if you plan to take no pictures, you can bring binoculars, but do not use them without proper filters
except during totality itself! You probably won't have these filters, because you generally have to make them yourself
out of the right kind of filter material. The view of totality through binoculars is outstanding, and is perfectly
safe (only during totality, we said!). And regarding pictures, do NOT try to take any pictures unless
you have the right equipment, filters, and knowledge to do so. Point and shoot cameras will not work to take pictures
of the sun (if you don't believe us, go out and try to take a picture of the full moon with one, and see what you
get!), and you will likely have someone become very angry with you if you dare to have a flash go off during totality!
Please please please don't do that! NO flash! None!
You'll need to go to the maps and find out when First Contact (C1) and Second Contact (C2) are for your exact location.
There are other times that are important for eclipses, like C3 and C4 and mid-eclipse, but C1 and C2 are the important
ones. You might also want to know the duration of totality for your location, but again, that's not nearly as important
to know beforehand if you're just wanting to enjoy the show. Just make sure you're in the path!
At the time known as C1 (first contact), the moon's disk will first touch the edge of the sun. Now, the sun is
a very bright thing, and you cannot look at it without proper filters in front of your eyes. So don't try. Assuming you have the right filters in
front of your eyes, and always keeping them there when you're looking at the uneclipsed or partially-eclipsed
sun, you should try and find that very first little nibble the moon makes as it's first touching the sun's
disk. Invariably, there will be someone who finds it before you, and shouts "First Contact", just to
show off that they were the first ones to see it. This will always generate a flurry of activity, as everyone scurries
to their equipment to get a glimpse of this very important, but very anticlimactic event. At this earliest stage
of the eclipse, it's easy to see the "bite" in the sun grow slowly larger, and you can be sure that someone
will say "Looks like the astronomers were right, there is going to be an eclipse today." That's a pretty
cheesy comment, but as observers, it always serves to remind us that we're about to experience one of life's ultimate
thrills, and there is no other place on earth we'd rather be.
Over the next hour and a half, this bite will grow, and will turn the sun into more and more of a crescent shape.
You have to really use your imagination to visualize the moon moving in front of the sun, because it looks for
all the world like simply a big bite that's getting bigger as some unseen monster's hunger remains unsatisfied
even after incessant munching. And there is absolutely nothing at all to see if you don't have the proper filters
to look through. Even if you could look straight at the sun, it's far too bright for you to be able to see any
of the bite. So please don't try. If you have no filters (you didn't prepare very well, did you?), you will have
no choice but to steal a glimpse at the sun through someone else's properly filtered equipment, or a projection device, or a TV
monitor that might be set up nearby doing a webcast or video recording. Or you can try the old trick of making
tiny little suns with your hands, or looking at the little crescent suns beneath trees. The best, though, is to
put on your solar viewing glasses, and look directly at the event. It really is pretty cool.
If you're not in the path
Depending on where you are, the moon will slowly encroach across the face of the sun. If by some terrible twist
of fate you are not in the path (what in the heck are you doing there?), then you will be able to tell that
the moon is traveling in a line taking it above or below the center of the sun (as viewed along the moon's line
of travel). That means that there will come a time when the moon has covered as much of the sun as it's going to,
and it will then move off toward the opposite edge of the sun, leaving an ever-narrowing bite - until the bite
is no more. That's called Fourth Contact, and it means that for you, the eclipse is over. That's it. Nothing cool,
nothing more than that, sorry you missed it, better luck next time. You'll be scratching your head for a long time,
wondering what in the heck could have persuaded people to think that that was anything cool at all, and you'll
be a little upset that we built it up so much like this.
Oops! You're way north of the path!
Well, that's 'cause you were in the wrong place. If you saw the moon go over the top side of the sun, then you
were too far south. If it skirted the bottom part of the sun, then you should've been farther south. People there
got the show, and you didn't. And there's no TIVO here, man - you missed it, and the moon ain't gonna back up and
give you any do-overs. That's all she wrote for 2017, and it's a long swim to get to the next one.
Now, if you're just outside the path, like maybe less than 100 miles or so, then you will experience "deep"
partiality. The moon will still track off-center, but at the time of maximum coverage, lots of the sun will end
up being covered by it. Now, it's still not safe to look at without filters (!), but the deeper the partiality
you get, the more of the "eclipse" effects you'll get to see. By that, we mean that you'll see (through
filters) a very thin sliver of the sun - the closer you are to the path, the thinner the sliver you'll see. You'll
also get to see the sky darken a bit, and if you're really close to the path, the overall eerieness of the
quality of the light around you will deepen, and you'll get that weird feeling that the light isn't right, and
that something very strange is going on around you. But, that's it. That's all you'll get, and like your friends
who are still well outside the path, you'll also come away feeling like you got robbed.
Let's say, then, that you've happily found your way into the path. You don't have to be right on the centerline,
but the closer to the centerline you are, the more totality you'll get. Most eclipse observers like to stay on
or near the centerline, but there are some who enjoy the "edge" effects you get by being just inside
the northern or southern oath limits - more about them later. For now, let's consider that you're in the middle
half of the path, nearer the centerline than you are to either edge. What happens then?
Well, you'll still see all the effects of deepening partiality. You'll get the shrinking sliver of sun, which is
kind of cool but is not the real show. As the sliver thins, though, you get the very weird atmosphere that surrounds
an eclipse, which is very difficult to describe. As the sliver of sun gets thinner and thinner, the sky darkens
a bit, and the light around you takes on a weird, "clearer" quality. Everything seems sharper and clearer,
though darker. It's kind of like if you were squinting, and everything seemed much clearer to you. It's very strange,
and it's a very powerful effect on your senses.
As partiality deepens, and the sliver of sun shrinks even more, the sky get darker - very slowly, but noticeably
darker. You don't really see it happening, but you can tell it's changing and getting darker. The shadows on the
ground become very sharp, very contrasty, and you feel like there's something wrong with your eyes. At this point,
some veteran eclipsers will put an eye patch over one of their eyes, to get it dark-adapted so they can see more
detail in the corona during totality. Some people don't like that idea, because they like to use both eyes to see
totality, and besides, wearing sunglasses during this darkening period probably gets your pupils as open as they're
gonna get. But many people do it, so there must be something to it. We wouldn't recommend you do it if this is
your first eclipse.
The wind picks up a bit, and the temperature drops noticeably. Birds roost, evening insects come out, and the world
prepares for sunset in the middle of the day....
Onset of Totality
Paritality deepens even more, and the atmosphere actually starts to be a little scary. The sky gets deeper and
deeper dark blue, and the sliver gets thin enough that you can actually (through your filters, remember?) start
to see it shrinking as you watch it. In the five minutes before totality, you can really get a feel for how earth-shatteringly
frightening this event must have been to ancient people who had no idea what was going on. We can truly believe
that people could have been frightened to death! But not us - the spectacle gets your heart beating fast, your
mouth watering for more, and your whole body trembling with excitement that you're being swept along in a wonderful
dance of the cosmos that nothing is going to stop. But we're all too "modern" to allow anything like
this to affect us...emotionally, right? Don't you believe it!
As the last bite of the sun slides away, things happen way too fast to describe concisely. You simply cannot focus
on every one of the events that take place around you, so you have to pick the few that seem the coolest to you.
(There will be more eclipses, after all, and in about 5 minutes you're going to be on the phone making travel plans
to see the next one!) The most important thing going on is the actual sun up in the sky, but let's take a peek
at just a couple of other things first.
The sky surrounding the sun will grow very dark very quickly. In real time, you will be able to see the deep blue
turn to twilight blue, and then to bluish-black. Stars and planets will pop out of nowhere. Roosters will crow
and insects will chirp as though night is falling. If you look to the west, you'll see a beautiful black curtain
with hints of sunset-orange north and south of it, while off to the east, the sky at the horizon is still rather
light. On the ground, your shadow will become impossibly clear and thin, and then will vanish completely as the
sun's light fades to about the intensity of the full moon. In the last few seconds before totality, that dull blackness
you saw off to the west will suddenly spring up out of the earth, and take over the whole sky like a gigantic curtain
being pulled over you - like that scene in the original Disney Fantasia movie - only about a hundred times faster.
If you aren't focused on the sun at that time (like most people will be), you'll be looking at the actual shadow
of the moon racing toward you at supersonic speed, covering you with its blackness. If you see that, you're very
lucky, because it happens so fast. And besides, you'll probably be too awe-struck by what's going on center stage...
As the last sliver of sun melts away, you will be able to see several things happening simultanelously. You will
now definitely have the feeling that there are two bodies involved, because it is impossible to miss the disk of
the moon in these last seconds. (You should still be watching through the filters, by the way.) But while the last
bit of the sliver is shrinking, the corona will start to come out. The last little bit of the sun's light will
glare through valleys on the moon, and will create a "bead" effect at the edge of the moon's disk. These
are called "Baily's Beads", and they are stunning. These will dance around a little, and then will fade
away as the very last one of them brightens into a huge bead. You will see a red outline around the leading edge
of the moon, that is a very thin layer of the sun called the chromosphere. It is always invisible, except during
a total eclipse. It is a beautiful red, and is sometimes even accompanied by prominences. You truly will not
believe how wonderful it is to see.
Around the edge of the moon, the sun's corona will begin to glow, giving us the famous "diamond ring"
effect. It lasts for only about 2-3 seconds, but it is stunning beyond words. Most people will take their filters
off at this point (though technically, you're not supposed to look until the diamond ring is totally gone, we're
just saying that most people do it anyway). You will see the corona burst into view as the diamond fades away,
appearing as though someone is smearing wispy-white cotton candy all around the black hole that's been cut out
of the fabric of the blue-black sky. (We are convinced that the corona comes out while the diamond is still blazing
away, and it is a beautiful sight to see.) There may be tongues of red fire visible around the edge of the sun
- these are solar prominences, and no one knows what they will look like until they see them right along with you.
The corona streamers will grow before your eyes, and again, no one really knows what these will look like until
they see them live. It's a sight no picture can match.
Someone will blow a whistle to signify that totality has officially begun, and you can take your viewing glasses
and all your filters off, and stare away. If there's no whistle, then once you can't see anything at all with your
filters, take them off! You will see nothing if you keep them on, and now, during totality, they're not necessary!
Keep them in your hand for when totality is over, but use your eyes. Use your binoculars with impunity. Don't look
away if you can help it. The diamond is gone, all the sun's light is blocked, and you're looking at the most beautiful
thing you're ever likely to see - the solar corona, shimmering around the moon brilliantly (about as bright as
the full moon, actually). It will look to you as though someone has painted the sky a deep blue-black, has cut
an impossibly-black hole in it with a pair of scissors, and then smeared radiant, glowing, shimmering cotton candy
around that hole. No picture in the world can do justice to the sight you have before you, and you will want to
etch it in your memory forever. Ten years from now, you'll still be able to imagine the sight in your mind - so
burn it in there now, while you can. Listen to the people around you scream and yell and hoot and holler and yell
"Oh My God" and do whetever else it is they do when there's nothing else to do but blither like a mad
fool. Look and enjoy the gift you've been given.
If you have a second to look away, look at the horizon all around you. It will be the orange of a sunset, all the
way around the whole horizon! You are in the middle of the circle of shadow that the moon has projected onto the
surface of the earth, and all around you at the horizon, the eclipse is not total! You're seeing the sunset effects
of the sun's light from a hundred miles away or so,all around you! It will be too dark for you to see anything
close at hand, but remember NO flashlights, NO flash pictures (they won't come out, and you'll ruin the scientists'
pictures). Just stand there and enjoy it. Hoot and holler all you want. Talk to the sun. Thank it for it's gift
in your own special way. After all, whatever craziness there is that happens in the shadow, stays in the shadow.
After the initial cheers from the crowd, the atmosphere will settle a little, and you'll be tempted to look away.
This is the stagae where you have to remember that you're only going to get this show for a minute or two, and
you have to record it in your mind in order to keep it forever. NO pictures will ever do it justice, so whatever
you store in your brain is what you're going to be left with. Enjoy it, and immerse yourself in it completely.
You'll know when totality is coming to an end, because the western sky will brighten dramatically. The shadow is
racing along to the next group of eagerly-awaiting victims to the east, and your time is sadly coming to an end.
The right side of the sun's black disk will brighten a little, you may see prominences again, and some people will
plaintively yell "no, please don't go away". Just like that, the corona will dim, the diamond ring will
flash into view on the right side of the sun's disk (and it's time again for your filters), the whistle will blow,
the beads will come back, and it will be over. Totality is gone for you, and you will desperately want it to not
be gone. Your brain will be frantically filing away the memories of what you've just seen, and your body will be
weak from the adrenaline crash that now comes over you. Everyone will cheer like crazy fools. The shadows will
come back, the sky will brighten, and the sliver of sun will majestically return. This is third contact - the end
of totality - and you've just joined the very select, very small percentage of humans who have witnessed a total
We believe this is the most anticlimactic feeling a person can have in life. In under two hours, you've been built
up so much by the events that have overtaken your senses, and you've just experienced a hundred-second orgasm of
amazement with a few hundred of your new comrades in eclipsedom, only to be dropped like a rock in the ocean while
the moon marches on across the face of the sun. There is no more show to be had, and nothing you can do to see
it again until the next one comes around in a year or so, in some far-off corner of the planet. After the spectacle
of totality, the views of the waxing crescent sun that are still there for the viewing will seem silly to you,
and you'll likely just want to go relax somewhere with friends and a favorite beverage or two. Later that night,
you'll see pictures on the news. The next day, you'll see pictures in the paper, and you won't believe those pictures
are of the same thing you saw. That's how bad pictures are! You'll smile, because you will have the memory of your
most perfect view of the glory of an eclipse, and that can never be taken away from you. You will feel true pity
for anyone you ever meet who did not make it to the path. You'll smile at anyone who says "Well, I was pretty
close. I was busy that day - it didn't seem like too much to get excited about anyway..."
Traffic driving away from your viewing location may be tight, so you could simply plan on staying right where you
are for a time. You might want to take a bit of the dirt that was around your feet, and save it in a film canister
or a baggie as a memento of something that physically shared your experience. But you will feel a curious mix of
letdown and exhilaration and pride and withdrawal. You will feel like you've shared something intimate and erotic
with all the people around you, while at the same time something so personal, you're scared to try and describe
it lest it escape your memory as you release the descriptive words from your mouth. Please, come back to this site
and share your experiences with us - we want to share them with you!
*To be continued*
The Edge of Totality
*For a discussion of UT, see this site or this site. The quick and dirty of it is that whenever you see "UT",
take the time you see, and:
subtract 4 hours if you're in the Eastern Time Zone
subtract 5 hours if you're in the Central Time Zone
subtract 6 hours if you're in the Mountain Time Zone
subtract 7 hours if you're in the Pacific Time Zone
(assuming Daylight Saving Time)
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