Today: November 17, 2017, 8:42 pm

Total Solar Eclipse to Hit North America

Astronomy fans of North America, rejoice; you've got a total solar eclipse coming up on August 21, 2017.
Total Solar Eclipse - photo taken by NASA
Total Solar Eclipse - photo taken by NASA 2015-11-06 20:13:27
Residents from about Portland, Oregon, to coastal South Carolina will be able to see the total eclipse on August 21 2017; The rest of North America, the Caribbean, and parts of South America, western Europe, and Africa will get to see a spectacular partial eclipse. For the best show, head to Carbondale, Illinois, where total eclipse will be visible for the longest amount of time at 2 minutes and just over 46 seconds.

The eclipse will begin with partial occlusion at about 15:46 UTC, or 11:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The total portion of the eclipse will begin at 16:48 UTC, or 12:48 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The total eclipse will last until just after 20:01 UTC, or 4:01 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, with the partial eclipse ending at 21:04 UTC, or 5:04 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Solar eclipses happen regularly, but it's not that common for one, especially a total eclipse, to occur over a highly populated portion of North America. This eclipse is definitely special because of its relatively longer duration and the fact that so much of the continent will be able to see totality.

Eclipses belong to two series, the Saros series and the Metonic cycle. Both are based on periods of approximately 19 years. A Saros is a time period spanning about 18 years, 11 days, and 8 hours, and it's regular enough to predict when both solar and lunar eclipses will occur. Eclipses that follow one another and that are separated by one Saros are considered to be a Saros series. These can contain many eclipses; for example, the August 21, 2017, eclipse is part of Saros series 145, which contains 77 eclipses. The first in the series was in 1639, and the last is forecast to be in 3009.

Saros series 145 is rather special in two ways. One is that the period of totality is getting longer and longer -- by the year 2504, the length of time for the total eclipse will be up to over seven minutes. However, the durations will start to shrink again after the year 2522.

The other special quality of Saros series 145 is that it also contains the total solar eclipse from August 11, 1999, which was one of the most viewed eclipses ever.

A Metonic cycle is about 19 years long, just slightly longer than a Saros. Metonic cycles are related in smaller groups of eclipses; this eclipse's Metonic cycle is part of a 20-eclipse series.

Solar eclipses, regardless of cycle, are doubly special because of the difficulty inherent in observing them. You can't look directly at even a totally eclipsed sun because once the sun's rays begin to peek out again, your sight could be at risk. If you want to view the eclipse on August 21, 2017, get special solar viewing glasses such as those available from Explore Scientific, founded by Scott Roberts, an expert astronomer and astronomy teacher.

Solar viewing glasses filter most of the sun's light, so you can see the eclipse without staring into the bright, hot light. The glasses won't make everything totally dark, of course, and you'll get a clear view of the discs of the moon and the sun as they pass by.

This is the first total solar eclipse viewable from the United States since 1991 (seen in Hawaii) and 1979 (seen on the mainland). Don't miss this eclipse by being unprepared; get good solar viewing glasses so you can see the eclipse while protecting your vision.

Press Information
Explore Scientific
621 Madison Street

Springdale, AR 72762

Jonathan Thralow

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