On August 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States, with a partial solar eclipse visible across North America. We spoke with Planetarium Director John Erickson about what makes this eclipse so special, and for tips on getting the most out of your eclipse viewing experience.
About twice a year the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, and as it moves, the Moon’s shadow sweeps across the Earth. That is a solar eclipse. People in the shadow can see the Moon block all the Sun (a total eclipse), or only part of the Sun (a partial eclipse). Less than a third of eclipses are total eclipses, and even when a solar eclipse is total, it is only observable from a narrow region of Earth called the path of totality.
For the eclipse of 2017, the path of totality goes right across the middle of North America. A partial eclipse will be observable in every part of our continent, so many Americans will witness a total eclipse. This is the first total solar eclipse visible in the contiguous United States in 40 years. That’s what makes this event special for us. It is important to note that observing the Sun must be done safely at any time, eclipse or no. You can purchase solar eclipse viewers online from the Hall’s Discovery Corner Store. Here are some more tips for viewing this year’s solar eclipse.