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First Solar Eclipse Visible to the United States Since 1918

On August 21, 2017, the first total solar eclipse visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States will occur and is being described as “The Great American Eclipse.” A solar eclipse can often be viewed as a momentary period of darkness, but it is actually a brief, glorious sight of the sun’s pure white-corona. The last time that an eclipse of this type occurred was June 8, 1918 and the next time this will be seen is 2045. The total eclipse will be visible in ten states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Those who are outside of this area will all be able to see a partial eclipse. Towns and cities are preparing for this moment in history with festivals, watch sites, and supplies in these states.

What is a Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse occurs when a new moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, blocking the Sun’s rays and casting a shadow across the Earth. The Moon’s shadow cannot consume the entirety of the Sun; allowing the shadow to only surround certain areas at a time. An eclipse is a natural event. However, in certain ancient and modern cultures, a solar eclipse is viewed as supernatural occurrence or as a ‘bad omen’. There are four different types of eclipses. An annular eclipse develops when the Sun and the Earth are directly in line with each other and the size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun.  A partial eclipse is the most commonly occurring eclipse type; this happens when the Sun and the Moon are not directly in line with each other and the Moon only partially blocks out the Sun. A total eclipse is what will be seen this upcoming Monday. This takes place when the shadow of the Moon completely blocks out the Sun, creating visibility to the bright solar corona. A hybrid eclipse is the rarest form of solar eclipse and shifts from a solar to an annual eclipse. Solar eclipses are more common than thought, they occur approximately once every eighteen months. On average, 240 eclipses will occur each century.

The upcoming solar eclipse will be a beautiful natural site to experience and people are traveling to nearby locations to catch the attraction. The Nashville Zoo in Grassmere, Tennessee is holding an Animal Observation Experience, during which guests are asked to record how the animals react to complete total eclipse. In Madras, Oregon, there will two music festivals held, one being the Oregon Solarfest and the other Solarfest 2017. Both consist of musical performances and four to five days of camping. When viewing the eclipse, it is important to be aware and acquire the proper safety supplies. The only way to look directly at the eclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is to use special solar filters such as eclipse glasses or handheld viewers; cardboard and plastic eclipse glasses can be found online. A handheld or pinhole viewer allows you to see the shape of the eclipsed sun without having to look directly at it. This simple device can be made at home with aluminum foil, cardboard, and paper. The solar eclipse of 2017 is turning out to be the largest cultural event since Woodstock of 1969. This natural phenomenon is a moment of beauty and splendor in the United States’ history that you surely don’t want to miss!