Total solar eclipse 2017 viewing guide: information on how and where to watch the 2017 eclipse.
Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Viewing Guide
On Monday, August 21, 2017, a huge shadow, cast by the moon, will sweep across the United States from west to east. Everyone in its path will be able to witness to one of nature’s most amazing spectacles: a total solar eclipse.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the sun is completely hidden behind the moon. As the moon passes in front of the Sun, sunlight is prevented from reaching the Earth, turning day into a mysterious, short-lived night.
- A worksheet for this page can be downloaded here: Free Printable Worksheets.
- You can find out more about solar eclipses here: What Is A Solar Eclipse?
A total solar eclipse is a rare enough occurrence in itself (the last one experienced by the United States was in 1979), but for it only to be visible in the United States – and for it to cross the entire country – makes this one a bit special. For this reason the 2017 solar eclipse has become known as the ‘Great American Eclipse’.
If you want to see a total solar eclipse, rather than a far less impressive partial solar eclipse, you need to be in the right place at the right time.
You’ll also need to know how to safely watch the eclipse without damaging your eyes.
Luckily, this page is a complete guide to viewing the Great American Eclipse! Read the whole page for a complete guide to the total solar eclipse 2017, or use the following menu to jump directly to the information you need.
- Where to see the solar eclipse 2017
- When to see the eclipse
- What is a total solar eclipse?
- How to watch a solar eclipse
- Total solar eclipse 2017 facts at a glance
Where To See The Solar Eclipse 2017
Whereas everyone in North America (and some of northwestern Europe) will be able to see a partial solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017, the total solar eclipse will only be visible along a relatively narrow band that stretches from west to east across the United States.
If you want to see the total eclipse in all its glory, then you need to get yourself somewhere inside this band, which is known as the path of totality. This is the path that the moon’s shadow will take as it passes over America.
The map below (provided by NASA) shows the path of totality. You can use it to find a suitable location from which to view the solar eclipse. There’s also a link to an amazing interactive map further down the page.
If you’re inside the path of totality then you’ll be able to witness a total solar eclipse.
The path of totality is around 70 miles (110 km) wide. It passes through 14 states, from Oregon in the west to South Carolina in the east.
The closer you are to the center of the path of totality itself, the longer the total eclipse will last.
Tip: if you’re serious about watching the eclipse, keep an eye on the weather forecast and have alternative viewing locations planned!
12 million people live within the path of totality. Even if you’re not one of the lucky ones who live in the path, it’s no more than one or two days’ drive from anywhere in the United States. Why not plan a mini-vacation around it?
The video below shows the path that the moon’s shadow will take across America.
Viewing A Partial Solar Eclipse
If you’re in North America on the day of the eclipse, but not within the path of totality, then you’ll only be able to see a partial solar eclipse. The further you are away from the path, the less impressive the eclipse will be.
During a partial solar eclipse, the moon passes in front of the moon but doesn’t cover it entirely, leaving a crescent-shaped slice of light. You should only attempt to view the phenomenon using suitable eyewear / apparatus.
During a partial solar eclipse you may notice the sky darken slightly, but not nearly to the same extent as in a total solar eclipse.
- You can read our report of a partial eclipse we witnessed in 2015 here: Partial Eclipse Report With Photos
What Time Is The 2017 Solar Eclipse?
Start making your plans: it will only take around 90 minutes for the moon’s shadow to pass across the entire country, from west to east. In addition, the maximum duration of the total eclipse at any point is only 2 minutes 40 seconds.
The chart below (provided by NASA) shows the time and duration of the total eclipse in some of the larger population centers within the eclipse’s path.
You can also use NASA’s interactive map (see further down the page) to find out when the eclipse will occur at any point along the path of totality.
You need to make sure that you’re not just in the right place, but that you’re also there at the right time!
The duration of the eclipse will vary depending on where you watch it.
- For those watching in Oregon, totality will last for up to 2 minutes.
- If you’re watching in Missouri, Illinois or Kentucky, you’ll get longer to enjoy the spectacle: the eclipse here will last for up to around 2 minutes 40 seconds.
Remember, the closer you are to the center of the path of totality itself, the longer the eclipse will last.
Interactive Eclipse Map
NASA has created an awesome interactive map of the eclipse, which you can see here. Once you’ve worked out where you’re going to be watching the eclipse, come back and find out exactly what is happening when a solar eclipse occurs!
What Is A Solar Eclipse?
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and in doing so either partially or totally covers the sun.
- In a total solar eclipse, the moon completely covers the sun. A total solar eclipse usually takes around 2 minutes. Before and after a total solar eclipse you’ll see a partial solar eclipse as the moon moves over and away from the sun.
- In a partial solar eclipse, the moon partially covers the sun. A partial solar eclipse usually takes 2 or 3 hours.
As the moon passes in front of the sun, it causes a shadow (known as an umbra) to sweep over the surface of the Earth. Anyone within the umbra will experience a total solar eclipse. The path taken by the umbra as it moves over the surface of the Earth is known as the path of totality.
Either side of the relatively narrow path of totality is a much larger area in which the sun is only partially covered. The shadow caused by the partially-covered sun is known as the penumbra.
If you’re viewing a solar eclipse from outside of the path of totality but inside the penumbra, you’ll only see a partial solar eclipse.
The further away you are from the path of totality, the less of the sun is obscured by the moon.
How To Watch A Solar Eclipse
Looking at the sun with the naked eye – even during a partial eclipse – can cause irreparable damage to your vision. You’ll need specially-made eclipse glasses – or other equipment fitted with suitable solar filters – in order to watch the eclipse safely.
Don’t let that put you off viewing the eclipse; many eclipse viewing gadgets are cheap to buy and readily available.
Make sure that any equipment you use complies with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.
The only point at which it is safe to look at the eclipse without eye protection is during totality; i.e. when the sun is completely covered by the moon during a total solar eclipse. (Even then care must be taken to ensure that full totality has been reached and that the sun is completely obscured.)
It’s important to bear in mind that, depending on where you are viewing the eclipse, totality may only last for 2 minutes or less. Eye protection must be used to view the partial eclipse that occurs both before and after totality.
Totality will only be experienced if you are within the path of totality (see further up this page to find out what this is). If you are viewing the eclipse outside of this narrow band then you’ll need eye protection to safely view the partial solar eclipse.
- Solar Eclipse Glasses are cheap to buy and offer basic but functional eye protection. Most are made of card and have plastic lenses. They also make good souvenirs!
- Handheld solar viewers are also available. These are good, but you’ll need to keep holding them to your eyes while looking at the sun. Some models also magnify the image.
- Solar binoculars and solar telescopes are also available for those who want to take things to the next level!
Points To Remember
- Read and follow your eclipse viewer’s instructions
- Check the condition of your eclipse viewer before use: scratches, tears and other damage can reduce its effectiveness, making it unsafe.
- Any children viewing the eclipse must be kept under close supervision.
- Face in a different direction and look away from the sun before either putting on or removing your solar protection.
- Remember to check that the equipment that you intend to use complies with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard.
Don’t be tempted to use sunglasses; they provide nowhere near enough protection for looking directly at the sun. Makeshift or homemade filters are also not to be used; they are extremely unlikely to provide the necessary protection.
Remember: it’s your responsibility to ensure that you and those in your care are watching the eclipse in safety. Additional safety instructions can be found at NASA.
Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Facts At A Glance
- The eclipse will occur on Monday, August 21, 2017.
- It will be the first total solar eclipse in the United States since February 26, 1979.
- The total solar eclipse will only be visible from the continental United States.
- Only those within the path of totality will be able to see the total solar eclipse.
- The path of totality is the path taken by the moon’s shadow (umbra) as it crosses the country.
- The path of totality is around 70 miles (110 km) wide.
- Observers within the path of totality will first experience a partial eclipse as the moon begins to pass in front of the sun. This will be followed by a period of totality (i.e. a total solar eclipse) as the sun is fully covered, followed by another period of partial eclipse as the moon continues past the sun.
- A viewer outside of the path of totality will only experience a partial eclipse.
- A partial eclipse will be visible to everyone in North America, and also those in some parts of Northern Europe.
- The path of totality passes through the following 14 states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
- The nearer you are to the center of the path of totality, the longer the eclipse will last. The eclipse’s duration also changes depending on where you are along the path of totality.
- The eclipse hits the US at Lincoln Beach, Oregon, at 9.05 a.m. (Pacific daylight time). Viewers here will experience totality at 10.16 a.m. (Pacific daylight time).
- The eclipse ends in the US at the coast near Charleston, South Carolina. A partial eclipse begins here at 13:17 (Eastern daylight time), and is followed by totality at 14:46 (Eastern daylight time).
- The moon’s shadow will travel around 2,496 miles (4,020 km) across the United States.
- It will be racing from west to east at an average speed of over 1,600 miles per hour (2,575 km/h).
- It will cross the US in a fraction over 90 minutes.
- The next total solar eclipse to be visible in the United States will occur on April 8, 2024.
- An annular solar eclipse will be visible in the United States on October 14, 2023. (An annular solar eclipse is when the sun is still visible behind the moon.)
- In order to view the solar eclipse without damaging your eyes, you’ll need to use specialized solar filters. These are inexpensive to buy and are readily available.
- Sunglasses or homemade viewing equipment are not suitable for viewing the eclipse and should not be used.
Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Viewing Guide: Conclusion
A total solar eclipse is one of nature’s most awesome spectacles. The chance to view one doesn’t come around very often and we highly recommend that you make the effort to see it. After reading this page you’ve got no excuse not to!
Enjoy the Great American Eclipse of 2017!