Today, skywatchers across North America will have the privilege of watching the moon punch the sun right in its smug face, visually speaking.
The eclipse will be visible in some form to all of North America. BUT if it happens to be cloudy where you are, don’t fret; there are plenty of options to watch online!
Cloudy With a Chance of Disappointment
Unfortunately, even if you did all the proper preparation and traveled to a location along the path of totality, you won’t be able to see anything if the sky is cloudy. But if the weather gods aren’t participating, you can still experience the event along with everyone else by watching online.
- The Weather Channel and Twitter will be teaming up to offer live eclipse coverage here beginning at noon ET.
- NASA will offer live-stream coverage on Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, Twitch, and Ustream. It has 55 teams across the nation to offer live streams of the eclipse all along its path from high-altitude balloons. Clouds be damned!
- Crowdsourced astronomy organization Slooh will be offering a live stream along with expert commentary on its website and through Facebook.
Where’d the Sun Go Now?
By cosmological chance, the apparent size of the full moon as seen from the surface of the Earth is juuuuust about the same as the apparent size of sun. During a total solar eclipse, the sun is nearly entirely blocked by the moon, with just its outer rim peeking over the sides. Witnessing a total solar eclipse live promises to be a striking experience.
Observing a “totality” (i.e. when the entirety of the sun is covered) will only be available to a narrow slice on the ground (the part of the surface fortunate enough to fall under the umbra—the central, darkest part of the moon’s shadow). However, a far larger swath of the continent will fall under the moon’s vast penumbra, the lighter shadow that surrounds the umbra. Inside the penumbra, ground viewers will see the moon appear to take a bite out of the sun. That bite will seem larger or smaller depending on how close or far the viewer is to the umbra’s path, respectively.
The August 2017 “All-American” solar eclipse’s path. (Credit: Wolfgang Strickling / Wikipedia)
Unlike lunar eclipses, which include a sprawling viewing area, solar eclipses are highly localized events. The moon’s shadow will zip across at speeds between 1,500 and 2,410mph, cutting a clear path from the northwest to the southeast. Even before factoring in time zones, different locations will experience the eclipse at different times.
For example, the eclipse will begin at 9:05 a.m. PT (12:05 p.m. ET) in Salem Oregon; 11:58 a.m. CT (12:58 p.m. ET) in Nashville, Tennessee; and 1:16 p.m. ET in Charleston, South Carolina. The entire global eclipse event will take place over 5.5 hours with different locations experiencing various stages along the way. The website TimeAndDate.com has local information on the eclipse where you live based on your computer’s location (or you can search by location in a box in the site’s top-right corner).
Due to the curve of the Earth, the length of the eclipse will vary from one to two hours. The maximum point of the eclipse will occur in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, at 1:25 p.m. CT (2:25 p.m. ET) and will last for two minutes and 40 seconds.
While the eclipse will be cool to watch, remember not to stare at it with your naked eyes over a prolonged amount of time. If you didn’t follow any of our eclipse-viewing advice in advanced, then you can always safely keep track with a pin-hole viewer.
If you miss this total solar eclipse for one reason or another (or the weather gods just aren’t cooperating), keep in mind that they occur fairly frequently elsewhere on the planet. If you’re an astronomy and travel buff, the next one is slated to cut a swath across the South Pacific and through South America on July 2, 2019.