By Arnold Medalen
ature’s most dramatic phenomenon—a total solar eclipse—occurs on Aug. 21, 2017. The last total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States occurred on Feb. 26, 1979, nearly four decades ago. The last solar eclipse with totality visible across the continental U.S. occurred 99 years ago.
Totality covers a 70-mile-wide path, making landfall on the northern Oregon coast at about 10:15 a.m. PDT and moving offshore in South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT. The longest duration of totality will be 2 minutes 40.2 seconds in southern Illinois, near Carbondale.
The beginning of the eclipse, called “first contact,” starts more than an hour before totality when the moon’s edge first appears to touch the sun’s edge. “Second contact” occurs when the moon just covers the sun, which lasts until the sun begins to uncover at “third contact.” At “fourth contact,” the last portion of the sun is uncovered, and the eclipse is over.
To see if your location will be in the path of totality, important safety information and much more, visit eclipse2017.nasa.gov.
Don’t despair if you’re not in the path of totality. The continental U.S. will see at least a 55 percent eclipse, which is an experience you’ll always remember.