Total Solar Eclipse --August 21

Total Solar Eclipse --August 21

An astronomical event of a lifetime is coming this summer.  On August 21, there will be a total solar eclipse, the first on US mainland since 1979. The path of  totality will fall  along a 70-mile wide path from Oregon to South Carolina.

This time, eclipse enthusiasts won’t have to travel to Mongolia or the Pacific Ocean for this breathtaking sight.  Kansas City is along the path of totality.  So is Carbondale, IL.

In Chicago, the visibility  is going to be 85% — which is still  amazing.

A total solar eclipse occurs about every 18 months.  For a  solar eclipse, the moon passes between the Earth and the sun. For a viewer on Earth, it appears that the moon is covering the sun. The outer atmosphere of the sun, the corona,  is still visible,  and it is an astonishing visual display.

You will need special solar filters–glasses or binoculars– to view the eclipse. It is not safe to look directly at the sun. 

Several places have eclipse glasses for sale.  NASA has a safety guide for viewing  and some recommendations. You can read more here.

What happens during a total eclipse of the sun?  The sky goes dark, and darker. The temperature drops. Animals behave as if it is twilight.  No doubt, our human ancestors felt fear and uncertainty.  Is this the end of the world? What happened to the sun?  Will it come back again?  

Those who understood the patterns of  such celestial events had powerful knowledge. An eclipse of the moon or the sun still evokes a sense of awe and wonder at something larger than ourselves.

I will be writing more about this eclipse in the days  to come.  In the meantime, you  can read  about a lunar eclipse here.




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  • Having been in a total eclipse in Rochester, NY several decades ago, I can tell you...the ancients were correct; the world does come to an end.

  • In reply to jack:

    thanks for reading, jack!

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    In reply to jack:

    Would that have been May 10, 1994? That was an annular eclipse, not a total eclipse. The last total solar eclipse to cross the United States was June 8, 1918. I think that's why some (just some) people I've talked to are not very excited...they think they saw a total eclipse at some time and it wasn't a big deal. This one IS a big deal! Hope we all have clear skies!

  • In reply to Mike Burdette:

    Looking it up, that sounds right. However, unlike YouTube, I didn't need a simulator, but did look thorough a bronzed window wall in a new building.

  • Thanks for the detail -- especially mentioning the date. I have seen far too many print and broadcast stories that mention "this summer" without being any more specific.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    thanks so much for reading!

  • I'm really looking forward to this. Heading to St. Louis the night before and then hitting the road the next morning to get in the optimal position, though I don't know what to expect traffic-wise. Towns in the path are totally sold out of hotel rooms. I also hope it's a clear sky. Big wild card.

    Tested out my eclipse glasses the other day (I guess a failed test would have been bad) and was surprised at how small the sun actually looks. I assume the moon will easily cover it.

  • In reply to Gary Lucido:

    Oh how exciting! I hope you will write a post about it. May the traffic be smooth, and the sky is clear for you!

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