On Monday, August 21st, a great portion of the central United States will be blanketed by darkness as The Great American Eclipse arrives and makes history. So what makes this total solar eclipse so historic?
Well, the last total solar eclipse visible from the continental U.S. came on February 26, 1979, which passed over a small portion of the northwestern part of the country. However this eclipse on Monday will be different as it will pass through just the United States before ending somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean.
The last time that happened: 1581 years ago on July 29, 436.
Long before the United States was known as the United States, a people with little to no understanding of a total solar eclipse witnessed what we modern-day Americans are lucky enough to behold. And let’s not take this for granted. The next such total solar eclipse touching only the U.S. won’t come again until the year 2316.
With that in mind, it’s no mystery why so many are eager to get out and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness the science of our solar system in action. The sheer magnificence of our rocky, celestial bodies lining up with the sun in a brilliant display.
Things start with the moon taking a bite out of the sun and, as the arc of darkness grows larger and larger, the sun becomes a crescent. The moon continues until we reach totality and the sun is completely covered up by the moon save for ring of fire stretching around a jet-black hole.
From Earth, it will appear as if night has fallen as the sky turns black, and stars and planets hidden from view by the sun's light now make themselves known. As the moon dominates the sun, the world changes. The temperature drops, animals seem to quiet down and there’s the chance you’ll hear the hoot of an owl, who mistakes the eclipse for nighttime.
Eclipses were viewed as harbingers of doom for centuries until the mechanics of our solar system revealed otherwise. Science has led us towards great discoveries and, among them, the moons crossing between the sun and the Earth dissolved the myths that once dominated civilizations.
The awe-inspiring beauty that’s to come with The Great American Eclipse has generated incredible interest and, given the uniqueness and exclusivity of this particular eclipse, it’s not surprising to learn how anticipated the event has become.
Time is running out and you’ll need to act fast to get your eclipse glasses, but there are alternatives, such as The Pinhole Method, that allow for safe viewing of the eclipse without eyewear.
No matter how you take in The Great American Eclipse do it safely and enjoy the show!