Planning for the Total Solar Eclipse 2017

January 29, 2019
Total Solar Eclipse 2017 is Coming!


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For the first time in nearly four decades, a total solar eclipse will sweep across the mainland United States! Are you ready?

Even most backyard astronomers have never seen one. No surprise—they’re rare and expensive. For any spot on earth, totality happens once every 360 years on average. Some places, like Los Angeles, will wait more than a millennium.

Everyone’s seen photos. The image of a black Moon surrounded by the solar corona is familiar. But is it merely a lovely natural scene along the lines of a lunar eclipse, or beavers building a dam? Only when viewed in person does the observer realize that this is the most wondrous event in his or her entire life.

A woman watches a total solar eclipse.

The eye perceives gorgeous detail the camera can’t capture. But beyond the visual sight is a feeling, a vibe. Almost certainly, you’ll consider it the most amazing thing you’ve ever experienced. 

I’m talking about this now instead of in August 2017 to encourage everyone to plan a journey into totality’s narrow path. A partial eclipse will temptingly appear over every backyard in the US. You might imagine that a deep partial will be “good enough,” since the Sun will be around 75% blocked as seen from most of the country. A stay-at-home eclipse party might certainly sound attractive.

Don’t do it. Make “Totality or Nothing” your mantra on August 21, 2017.

Check out a web totality map (like NASA’s Total Solar Eclipse Interactive Map), decide where you’ll be, then watch the weather as the date approaches.

Map of the 2017 total solar eclipse by NASA.

Click here for an enlarged view of the above map.

Perhaps avoid the Pacific Northwest where there’s a good chance of clouds. And maybe avoid the Southeastern States where it’ll be an afternoon event with high humidity and an enhanced chance of pop up storms. Of course, if you have friends or relatives in Nashville, where it’ll be total, keep your fingers crossed and go for it!

Whatever you decide to do, plan ahead now! In Oregon, campsites located within the eclipse’s path have already been totally booked. Just know that it’ll all work out even if you end up observing from a highway shoulder.

I’ve been the eclipse astronomer for seven previous totalities, in places like northeastern Australia, Libya, and Bengal. People pay thousands to position themselves in the Moon’s shadow. But now that shadow comes to our own country—within driving range!

Don’t imagine that this is an event like a lunar eclipse, a bright conjunction, a comet, or a rich meteor shower. And don’t recall the partial eclipses you’ve seen, all of which required eye protection. None of those are in the same league.

Only solar totality makes people weep, and makes animals go nuts. This alone has an impact and glory that is life-altering. Mark August 21 on the calendar and see it. You don’t need equipment, other than cheap shade number 14 welding goggles for viewing the partial phase that precedes and follows totality. When totality arrives, you look at it straight on, no equipment needed. You can even view it through binoculars. Totally safe.

For more about the upcoming total solar eclipse, see our Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Guide.

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s hub for everything stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe

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Solar eclipse

As you observe the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, ask yourself how it appears that the size of the moon's shadow which covers the sun is exactly the "correct" size (diameter) so that it obscures the sun totally and completely! Not too big; not too small--just right!
We know the moon is much smaller than the sun and much closer to the Earth. Yet during the total eclipse both spheres appear exactly the same diameter!
What are the odds that this phenomenon occurs by chance? Or perhaps it indicates that just like everything in "nature', this demonstrates plan and purpose. And if this indeed shows plan and purpose, doesn't indicate that the universe is the creation of a vastly intelligent Creator?
Think about it. Then think some more.

Eclipse 2017

I saw an eclipse march 9 2016 in Makkassar Strait, between Sulawesi and Borneo, in Indonesia, on board MS Volendan, a cruiseship.
It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen, and we were very lucky to have clear skies. My wife cried under the eclipse, and she was so moved that she jump in the pool afterwards with her close on.
Im going to see the eclipse august 21. 2017 in Rexburg Idaho at Brigham Young University with my traveling party from Denmark, along with thousands others.
Im looking very much foreward to the eclipse, it will be a part of our journey through USA for 14 days. Then its back to Denmark, jetlag, and work
John Skovhus Hansen
Holstebro, Denmark

Path of Totality

In the 2017 hard copy issue of The Old Farmer's Almanac, you wrote an article called, "2017's Greatest Spectacle." You mentioned that the path of totality is 140 miles wide. I have checked with several sources that show the path to be around 70 miles wide, give or take a few miles. Of course, the longest duration of totality will be right along the center line of that path, or about 35 miles inside the 70-mile wide shadow. That means the sun will be eclipsed by the moon for about 2 min. and 40 seconds in the Midwest along that center line. If viewers plan to travel only to the edge of that path, or a few miles inside it, the amount of time the sun is in total eclipse will be much shorter. For example, if you travel to the River Market area of Kansas City, Mo., just north of downtown - which is within the path - you will only get about 20-30 seconds of totality. But if you drive further north to, say, Plattsburg, Mo., you will see the total eclipse for about 2 min. and 38 seconds - almost the maximum amount of totality. St. Joseph, Mo. is also on the center line, and current estimates are for 200,000 to 400,000 people to visit that day where the airport is hosting a watch event. I'm avoiding St. Joe!

width of path

Hi, Becky, Regarding he width of the path: I’d meant to say that a total eclipse path is always less than 140 miles wide. Turns out, this one, as it passes through the US, is even narrower than most. The point is that you’ve got to position yourself within a very limited band of real estate, or it won’t be total. All the best! –Bob

Eclipse in PNW

"Avoid the Pacific Northwest, where there's a good chance of clouds."
???? Have you ever been to the Pacific Northwest in the summertime? Here in the Willamette Valley, we get next to zero rainfall (and about the same amount of cloudiness) between early June and late September. In fact, Albany, Oregon's Linn-Benton Community College is working with NASA to broadcast the first images of the eclipse shadow over the continental U.S. from a high-altitude balloon launched from an Oregon State University research vessel. Search "space exploration eclipse" on Linn-Benton's website if you have any questions! (I'd provide a link, but am not allowed.)

Solar eclipse viewing

Apologies for painting the entire “Pacific Northwest” with the same rainy, cloudy brush. Those who live there know where the cloudier (coastal) parts of the totality path are, and also know that the eastern parts of Oregon are not particularly cloudy at all. Good luck to you, and all who are traveling to see it, like our next letter writer, below.


I've seen three of these things: 1970, 1979, and (in Tanzania) 1980. But the one I travelled to see with my wife, the 1991 Hawaii eclipse, was clouded out where we were, so we're anxiously hoping for clear skies in Glendo, WY this time.

It's hard for me to choose between a total solar eclipse and the Aurora for beauty. An eclipse is more dynamic (in the literal sense of changing by the second) and exciting, the Aurora is totally (pun intended) Zen. All I can say is don't miss either. When I hear some kid refer to a hamburger or a rock concert as "awesome", I just laugh indulgently.

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I recommend the ability to change plans in minutes - like hop on a plane after seeing the up to date forecasts - be a shame to just see dark clouds


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