Safe Viewing Warning
Unless you are wearing special eclipse glasses, do not look directly at the Sun during the partial phases of the eclipse. It is still unsafe even when the Sun is more than 99% covered by the Moon. The only time it is safe to look toward the Sun without eclipse glasses is when it is covered completely during totality for those on the path of totality. LEARN MORE ABOUT SAFE VIEWING
On August 21, 2017, all of North American and parts of South America will experience a partial solar eclipse, and a total solar eclipse will occur along a narrow path of totality extending coast-to-coast across the United States. Watch this video for an overview of what to expect and why you may want to travel to the path of totality. Also see these two written resources:
- Eclipse Q&A by Big Kid Science author Jeffrey Bennett
- Article “Totality: The Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017” (open the digital magazine to p. 29).
A total solar eclipse is a totally different experience from a partial solar eclipse, and one you should not miss if there is any way that you can get to the path of totality. In using this app to choose a location along the path of totality, be sure to consider all of the following:
- Weather: You can’t see totality if there are clouds in front of the Sun, so you’ll want to pick a location where the weather is expected to be good. Fortunately, historical weather statistics suggest a great chance of seeing totality all along the path for the eclipse of August 21, 2017, though the best weather prospects are in eastern Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming. But check the weather forecast in the days ahead, and if it looks poor for your planned location, consider trying a spot with a better forecast.
- Amount of totality: The length of totality varies between 0 and more than 2 ½ minutes depending on exactly where you are on the path of totality. Again, this app will tell you the exact amount of totality for any location. Keep in mind that while longer is in principle better, in practice you must trade off the length of totality with convenience. We think you’ll be very happy with anything over about a minute of totality, but if you can get more, go for it!
- Convenience: While it’s easy to think of the ideal as being in perfect weather with the longest possible totality, you should also consider convenience. For example, choose a location that is easy for you to get to, and many people prefer to be in or near a town or city in order to have access to food, water, bathrooms, and other conveniences.
- Solo or group: Some people may seek a solitary wilderness experience for the eclipse, but for most people it is more fun to watch with a large group. In that case, look for locations hosting eclipse events at schools, parks, stadiums, and so on. Or consider hosting one yourself!
- Plan ahead: Traffic to the path is expected to be very heavy on eclipse day, so it will be best to go at least a day or two early to avoid the risk of missing totality because of clogged roads. Also bring along food and water, just in case you get stuck, or local stores run out.
If You Can’t Get to Totality
If you simply can’t get to the path of totality, you should still plan on watching the partial solar eclipse, which will be visible throughout North American and parts of South America. That requires nothing more than being outside during the eclipse and observing it in accord with the Safe Viewing guidelines. Use this app to find the beginning, middle, and end times for the eclipse at your location.
Special Note For School Administrators and Teachers
This eclipse is a fantastic educational event. Ideally, you’ll find a way to take every child in your school to the path of totality. But if that’s not possible, then:
- If your school is in session on Monday, August 21: Be sure to take all your students and teachers outside at least from the beginning of the partial phase to the maximum eclipse (using this app to find the times for your school’s location). Be sure to help your students observe safely in accord with the Safe Viewing guidelines, and don’t miss the Classroom Activities on this app.
- If your school is not in session on August 21: Please host an eclipse-watching event on your school grounds, inviting all your students, teachers, and parents. You might also ask if you have any local astronomers who can bring telescopes (with appropriate filters) and help explain the event to your community.
Idaho Falls, ID
Finally, if you have flexibility in travel, consider joining the creator of this app for special events in Idaho Falls, ID over the weekend leading up to the eclipse and on eclipse day.