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North American friends, mark your calendars for August 21, 2017, when there will be a total eclipse of the sun traversing the middle of the United States.
The last time a total eclipse crossed the entire continental U.S. was in June 8, 1918. A total eclipse touched part of the continent in February, 1979. If you miss the 2017 eclipse, you will have to wait until 2024 for the next total eclipse over North America.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun in a path that positions the moon right in front of the sun. The moon, sun, and Earth are directly aligned.
The moon passes between the Earth and the sun on every lunar cycle (28 days); this is the “New moon.” But, because the moon’s orbit is offset from the Earth’s orbit around the sun by 5 degrees, the shadow cast by the moon does not always reach the Earth.
Depending on the orbit of the moon (its distance from the Earth and its path), an eclipse is categorized as total, annular, or partial. In a total eclipse, like the one next August, the entire sun will be obscured by the moon. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and sun, but is too far away to completely cover the sun. And, a partial eclipse happens when the moon only blocks a part of the sun. Partial eclipses are the most common.
Eclipses generally happen a few times each year, but they are often only visible over the ocean or in remote places. The duration of a total eclipse is short, therefore, the true total eclipse is only viewable over a small section of the Earth each time it happens. However, you can still view part of the eclipse from the areas to the right and left of the sun’s path across the Earth.
The 2017 eclipse will transit the United States starting on the Oregon Coast and passing over the states of Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and finishing in South Carolina. The time from start to finish will be less than 2 hours and totality will only last approximately 2 minutes, 41.7 seconds. The viewing region of greatest totality will be in western Kentucky and the greatest duration will occur in southern Illinois.
Do NOT view a solar eclipse with unprotected eyes. Permanent damage to your vision may occur. Special eclipse viewing glasses are needed to protect your vision. The protection afforded by regular sunglasses is insufficient.
People will be able to experience phases of the partial eclipse in many areas of the United States, but since totality will only happen in a thin band across a handful of states, dedicated solar telescopes, binoculars, and add-on filters for conventional astronomical telescopes will be absolute necessities to safely view and enjoy this incredible astronomical event.
Over the next 12 months, B&H will be sharing other viewing gear and tips, as well.
Because this is the first North American total eclipse of the Internet Age, the web is already buzzing with websites and information about the 2017 North American eclipse. Read more on the B&H Explora blog about viewing and photographing the eclipse in the leadup to August 21, 2017.
For the quickest way to get your solar viewing and solar eclipse gear, click on this link!
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