This Monday, August 21, 2017, the sun will disappear, the air will become colder, and millions of North Americans will be looking towards the sky. We at Quicken Loans invite you to be one of them.
What Will I See?
A total solar eclipse happens when the paths of the moon and the sun intersect, with the moon entirely blocking the sun. Believe it or not, they’re not extraordinarily rare. Eclipses happen all over the world every few years, but the last time a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire contiguous United States was back in 1918.
Because of the Earth’s rotation, the path of the eclipse isn’t a straight line across the United States, and not everyone will have the same viewing experience. To see the full effect, you have to be in the path of totality: the 70-mile-wide stretch directly beneath the moon’s shadow. The path begins in Oregon and ends in South Carolina. The eclipse cycle (C1-C2-C3-C4) will last two-and-a-half hours, and depending on where you’re viewing, totality could last up to two-and-a-half minutes. An estimated 12 million people live within the path of totality, but 200 million Americans could get there within a day’s drive.
In the words of Lou Mayo, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “People remember where they were when Kennedy was shot; people remember the moon landing; people will remember this eclipse.”
From a scientific standpoint, you don’t have to travel out of your way to still see the show. Even if you don’t want to go out of your way, you’ll still get a show. When the moon has covered about three-quarters of the sun, there will be cleaner, more visible shadows, because of less light diffusion. Additionally, trees and other lattice-like barriers (think wicker furniture) will become “solar pinholes” that leave shadows in the shape of several small crescents.
Local times for beginning of eclipse:
Eye Protection Is Key
Unless you’re in the path of totality, do not look at the sun with your naked eye. Even normal sunglasses with 100% UVA/UVB protection don’t work. It’s important to note that retinas don’t have nerves, so you wouldn’t feel damage being done. But sunlight is still sunlight, and your eyes need to be protected.
Specifically, you’ll need “eclipse glasses,” which are hundreds of thousands of times darker than retail sunglasses and must be from AAS-approved brands including American Paper Optics, Rainbow Symphony, Celestron and Daystar.
NASA says you should inspect the glasses for the manufacturer’s name and address printed on the product, a label noting the ISO 12312-2 international standard, a manufacturing date less than three years old, and no wrinkles or scratches on the lenses.
Why Is the Solar Eclipse a Big Deal?
The star performer of the solar eclipse is the moon and more specifically, a new moon. During a new phase, the moon isn’t visible because the illuminated side of the moon faces away from the Earth. If we could see any bit of the moon during this phase, a solar eclipse would be impossible. This is because the sun can’t illuminate the moon at the same time that the moon blocks part or all of the sun’s disc.
A new moon isn’t the only requirement for a solar eclipse. If it were, there’d be a solar eclipse once every 29 ½ days. The moon’s orbit around Earth is tilted 5 degrees to Earth’s orbit around the sun, which means the moon’s shadow usually misses Earth as it passes above or below us during a new moon. So this must mean solar eclipses are rare, right? Well, yes and no. The chances that you’ll experience a total solar eclipse are slim to none. A total solar eclipse occurs over any given location once in about 375 years, on average.
This doesn’t mean total solar eclipses are especially rare, though.
“Total solar eclipses happen about every 18 months somewhere in the world, on average,” said Amir Caspi, a senior research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “But, the Earth is mostly water, so most of the time eclipses are going to be happening over water.”
What If I Can’t Get to the Path of Totality?
Editors from Curiosity.com, Quicken Loans official eclipse partner, will be streaming Facebook Live video throughout the day in Carbondale, Illinois. Be sure to follow along.
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