Set your calendar. August 21, 2017 is the next “Total” solar eclipse on American soil.
I realize that it may be a little far in the future for some of you; however, things like this have a tendency to get away from people. The next thing you’ll be saying is, “Hey, the paper says that there was a solar eclipse yesterday. It says that the next ‘total’ solar eclipse on US soil one wont be until April 8, 2024.”
Why is it so important to see a total eclipse from the line? Our moon, by a stroke of luck is 400 times smaller in diameter than the sun, but the sun is 400 times further away. So for a very narrow slice of Earth… Totality. The solar disc of our star will be completely occluded by the moon. For that brief moment, the sun’s corona will be the only thing that is visible. The stars will come out in the middle of the day. It is a moment of awe that will come over you as you realize that this world is part of something bigger. In that instant your normal circadian rhythm is interrupted for up to two and a half minutes of darkness that puts such a large contrast difference in the sky that it is hard to capture with any other device but your mind. (Take your cameras, but the experience is what you’ll take home). You know that you live in a solar system, but this is a way to experience it like no other way.
How wide is the line? Well, its pretty narrow, astronomically speaking. It’ll be about 70 miles. The closer to the center of the line, the longer of an eclipse you will witness. How long is the line? For this eclipse, it will start in the Pacific and end in the Atlantic. It will go through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. (See the map compliments of the predictive power of Fred Espenak at NASA)
You should plan to enjoy this rare occurrence while you can. Not only are total eclipses rare (try to think about all the planets that we know of that have a moon the size of ours) but ours is disappearing. Every year our moon is moving away from the earth about one and a half inches, thanks to the lag of the earth’s movement in response to the gravity pull of the moon.