This astronomical event will take place on Aug. 21, the first one to cross the U.S. since 1991. NASA estimates 500 million people will be able to see it, in partial or in total form.
Q: What is a total solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse is when the moon's orbit completely blocks the sun from Earth's view, creating a night-like scene. During this brief 2½-minute period, animals have been recorded to begin their nocturnal activities, and temperatures will drop 5 to 10 degrees. Four planets (Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus) will be visible to the naked eye, as well as several bright stars. The eclipse will bring out the sun's hidden solar corona, the sun's outermost atmosphere usually hidden by the bright light of the sun, which is considered a breathtaking sight by eclipse travelers.
Q: When is it?
The total solar eclipse will move across the entire United States on Monday, Aug. 21. Lincoln City, Oregon, will be the first city to view the total solar eclipse at 11:15 a.m. MDT. Charleston, South Carolina, will be the last city to experience the total eclipse at 12:48 MDT. The lunar shadow, which is when the moon partially blocks the sun, will occur on the West Coast at 10:05 a.m. MDT, and will end on the East Coast at 2:09 MDT.
Q: Where can I see it?
Viewers will only be able to see a total solar eclipse in a roughly 70-mile path passing through 14 states, beginning in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. Everyone in North America will see a partial eclipse, where the moon partially blocks the sun's direct light.
Q: What can I see from Southwest Colorado?
We will be able to see roughly 80 percent of the eclipse. Residents will be able to see a partial eclipse from 10:18 a.m. to 1:09 p.m., with the peak occurring at 11:41 a.m. Find a nice, clear spot with a good view of the sky.
Q: Can I look directly at the solar eclipse?
Looking directly at the sun is unsafe, except during the total phase of the solar eclipse. Special eclipse glasses should be used, which are generally cheap and widely available. Using ordinary sunglasses, even darker shaded ones, are not safe for viewing an eclipse, especially in this area, which won't see one in totality. Viewing the sun through binoculars, cameras or telescopes is unsafe, even if wearing special eclipse glasses. An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed sun is pinhole projection. In this method, you don't look directly at the sun, but at a projection on a piece of paper or even the ground. For example, cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other. Do not look at your hands, but at the shadow of your hands on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images, showing the sun as a crescent during the partial phases of the eclipse.
Q: Can I watch the eclipse online?
A live stream can be seen online at nasa.gov/eclipse. NASA TV will broadcast view of the total solar eclipse live, along with interviews with NASA experts and live feeds from NASA aircraft, balloons and the International Space Station. You can also watch a live stream from high-altitude balloons from research institutions across the country at stream.live/eclipse.
Q: How rare is this event?
Total solar eclipses actually occur every few years, but it's pretty uncommon to occur in a place near you. NASA estimates that a total solar eclipse that happens where you live occurs every 375 years. The last time a solar eclipse occurred in the contiguous United State was on Feb. 26, 1979, and it won't happen again until April 8, 2024. The line of totality will cross from Texas, up through the Midwest, almost directly over Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, New York, up over New England and out over Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. Carbondale, Illinois, will be in the crosshairs once again. There will be a total solar eclipse in 2019, but you'll have to be below the equator for a glimpse. We're talking the South Pacific, and Chile and Argentina. It's pretty much the same in 2020. It's even rarer for a total solar eclipse to cross the entire North American continent, which hasn't happened since June 8, 1918. The last time a total solar eclipse took place exclusively in the U.S. was in 1778.
Q: How long does the eclipse take?
The umbra (dark inner shadow) of the moon will be traveling from west to east from almost 3,000 miles per hour (in western Oregon) to 1,500 miles per hour in South Carolina. The total eclipse, when the sun is completely blocked by the moon, will last up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds, depending on location.