The hype is underway as Monday, Aug. 21st will see tens of millions of Americans in a black out. That’s the afternoon that our star is covered up by the Moon in broad daylight, turning daytime into night for just two minutes.
You’ve heard about it. Maybe you’re among the estimated 5 million Americans who are going to drive to a town where that 70 mile-wide-band of totality races across our country from sea to shining sea. Or maybe you don’t care that much, and seeing the partial phases wherever you live will be exciting enough.
After all, it is a Monday work day. And the entire eclipse happens in East Tennessee/Southwest Virginia from around 1 pm to 4 pm Eastern Daylight Time, with totality or maximum coverage occurring around 2:25 pm. Exact times depend on where you are watching.
The Moon’s shadow bisects America as it moves at 2,100 miles an hour, the speed our satellite orbits Earth. The Moon’s shadow will take 90 minutes to traverse the 3,000 miles between America’s coasts, but local times make it seem like all day. The Moon takes its first bite out of the near Salem, Oregon at 9:05 am local time, and ends in Charleston, SC at 4:10 pm local time! Everyone in the United States will see at least 60 percent coverage of the Sun by our Moon. Lots of major cities in Canada and Mexico Canadian cities will see 30-70 per cent of an eclipse.
The Great American Eclipse (.com) will be controlled by the uncontrollable—the weather. So, the most popular person in the country will be our local weatherman on Sunday night, telling millions of eclipse chasers to go to witness one of the most incredible natural wonders of our celestial world.
DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN WITH ANY OPTICAL AID, INCLUDING BINOCULARS OR RIFLE SCOPE. You will injure your eyes! If the Sun can burn our skin, and light paper when magnified, just think what it WILL do to your retina in seconds.
Information abounds and local businesses (like home center Lowes) have displays with safe “solar glasses” that are paper with Mylar lenses that reject 99 percent of sunlight, safe to look at during partial phases. They cost $2-3, and I predict will pop up at convenience stores.
Eclipse 2017 is all about the weather. The week of August 14 will begin to show its hand, and super-duper predictions will begin. And I’ll be anxiously tuned in to all the expert meteorologists, as I’ve never seen a total eclipse of the Sun, just a dozen or so partial ones. So, I am among the millions ready to drive somewhere between Nashville, Tennessee and Charleston, South Carolina.
A consideration: Interstate traffic. America’s East Coast to Appalachia is among the most densely populated in our country. It will be crazy on Interstates in Tennessee (I-75, I-40, I-81) and South Carolina (I-26, I-95), and of course the main routes west of the Mississippi River. Use your head and leave Sunday or very early Monday morning to your eclipse destination. Any bets on some major interstate traffic jams?
Also, a consideration: forget photos. You only have 150 seconds or so of totality. Veteran eclipse watchers have a cliché saying: all total eclipses last 8 seconds. That’s telling me to look up and take it in, which is what I plan to do, firing off just a few photos. If you do take photos, keep it very simple and be set up in advance for just two or three images. There will be plenty of photos to see from professional eclipse watchers. I’m going to run a video on a tripod beginning a few minutes before totality and capture the candid reactions.
Not everything about a solar eclipse happens in the sky. The impression of your surroundings is what you take away from a total solar eclipse. And that lends itself to all our senses and can inspire artists of all types of mediums, from paintings to pottery.
Around 15 minutes before totality, the air temperature will start to drop as the Moon begins its final moments of covering up the Sun. In the twilight, wildlife and livestock will be affected. Cows will begin heading to the barn for bed, and then turn around two minutes later, possibly confused. Roosters will crow good night, and then good morning. Though they are mostly in dark caves, some bats under bridges might head out for a snack quickly run from the light. Maybe fireflies will come out and frogs begin crooking? Nature everywhere will be putting on quite a show. Even if cloudy under the 70-mile-wide swath of the total eclipse, it will become night for more than two minutes.
A quick as it starts, the solar climax is over. Daylight will return and the Moon will move away from the Sun for the next 90 minutes, the eclipse completely over after 4 pm Eastern Daylight Time.
And everyone can reload for the next total solar eclipse in America on April 8, 2024, this one cutting a northern total band from San Angelo, Texas to Cleveland, Ohio.
The Aug. 21st eclipse will be total just south of Knoxville, with Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains being a major location. Chattanooga is just south of the center line. Other interesting geography of the band of totality is in Missouri: you must be on the north side of Kansas City or the south side of St. Louis to see totality as both downtowns will see 99.9 per cent coverage of the Moon over the Sun.
Here are some of the nearby, major towns along the 2017 total eclipse path: Clarksville, TN, 1:27 pm Central Daylight Time; Nashville, TN, 1:28 pm CDT; Greenville, S.C., 2:39 pm Eastern Daylight Time; Columbia, SC, 2:43 pm EDT; Charleston, SC, 2:28 pm EDT. Towns along I-75 south of Knoxville that will be filled with eclipse watchers are: Farragut, Loudon, Sweetwater, Athens, Hopewell and Cleveland. Remote areas of Western North Carolina include Cherokee, Lake Santteentiah, Andrews and Cashiers.
And how about friends across the country? Here are some cities and the percentage the Sun will be covered by the Moon: Cincinnati, OH, 92; Dallas, TX, 80; Seattle, WA; 93; Washington, DC, 85; Tampa, FL 85; Louisville, KY 96; Hartford, CT, 73; Baton Rouge, LA 80; Los Angeles, CA, 69; New York, NY, 77.