A total solar eclipse will cross the continental United States on Monday, August 21st. It begins around 9 a.m. or 1 p.m., depending on where in the country you are. The total eclipse will only be viewable from within the “path of totality,” but most parts of the U.S. will be able to see a partial eclipse.
During a Total Eclipse, Several Things Happen at Once
When you’re in the direct path of a total eclipse, several things happen at once. The moon completely covers the sun, and the air temperature drops about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The horizon becomes vibrant with the colors of the sunset, and the sky fills with stars. Depending where in the world you are, crickets may start chirping and birds may become suddenly louder or quieter. Bugs and mosquitos may emerge, and spiders may destroy their webs. Humans will look to the sky and watch this spectacular and rare event through the index-card-sized screens of their phones instead of with their eyes. Because the moon’s shadow moves at about 2,000 miles per hour, most solar eclipses only last for two or three minutes.
Valuable Moments for Scientists
The rarity of total solar eclipses makes them valuable moments for scientists. We still don’t know much about the effect eclipses have on animals, insects, and plants. Scientists encourage people to observe the area they will be viewing an eclipse from. What animals might be in that area? Are there any slow moving creatures like ants or spiders that would be easy to observe? Though most people may not be able to conduct research with the same level of standards and methods as scientists, an eclipse is a chance for anyone to make discoveries and observations.
If you will be within a few hours of the path of totality, you should make the trip! Not only is it such a spectacular event that some people become “eclipse chasers” and fly all over the world to witness the phenomenon, but it’s also incredibly rare that it will happen to pass through where you live. On average, any point on Earth will experience a total eclipse once every 375 years, and no one can afford to wait that long.
Viewing The Great American Eclipse
If you plan on observing an eclipse, make sure to use proper viewing glasses, which your local library may offer for free! They are thousands of times darker than sunglasses, so unless you plan on wearing 2,000 pairs of sunglasses at once, wearing multiple pairs of shades will provide no protection. Be careful, and avoid permanent damage to your eyes! If you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can make a pinhole viewer with a cardboard box, paper, and aluminum foil. To do this, make a small rectangular hole in one side of the box. Tape aluminum foil over the hole, and poke a small hole in the foil with a pin. Tape the piece of paper on the inside of the box opposite from the hole, and hold your mini-projector up so that the sun’s light passes through the pinhole and projects its image onto the paper! The only time it is ever safe to look directly at an eclipse without glasses is during the few minutes of a total obstruction.
Few astrological events are as dramatic or observable as eclipses, and anyone who has seen one will urge others to make the trip to the path of a totality. You can find out how close you will be to the path of totality on nasa.gov. Just make sure you use genuine eclipse glasses or a pinhole viewer! Don’t miss out on this rare and beautiful event that will have everyone looking to the sky.