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On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the contiguous United States for the first time since 1979. Sky watchers in North America and Hawaii will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse on that summer day, but most people will have to travel to see the sun completely eclipsed by the moon. If you're considering making a trip to see the total solar eclipse, here's a guide to which states and cities fall inside the path. And remember that a trip to see the eclipse could also include stops at a few local attractions.
To quote noted astronomer and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson, "A total eclipse of the sun belongs on everyone's bucket list." Although many people have likely had the opportunity to view a total eclipse of the moon (since those are visible over a larger area than a total solar eclipse), few people have been lucky enough to see a darkened sun adorned with the soft pearly white halo of the sun's corona — solar gases streaming millions of miles into interplanetary space — that blossoms briefly during totality. For any spot of land on Earth, there's an oft-cited average time of 375 years between total solar eclipses. That varies greatly, of course, but it emphasizes the general rarity of these events. [Total Solar Eclipse 2017: When, Where and How to See It (Safely)]
Any one person's chances of witnessing a totally eclipsed sun without traveling far from home are quite small — the "path of totality" of a solar eclipse is rather narrow, so many total eclipses are visible only from remote parts of the globe. But those odds will be considerably increased late this summer for an estimated 225 million people who live within a one-day's drive of the path (averaging about 70 miles wide) of the moon's dark shadow as it sweeps from one end of the United States to the other.
On that third Monday of next August, the sun will appear to be partially obscured by the moon to viewers across all of North America and in Hawaii. Just how much of the sun will be eclipsed by the moon will depend on where you're observing from. For most people in the U.S., the moon will appear to cover at least two-thirds of the sun and in many locations it will be much more than that. Viewers located very close to the path of totality will see only a sliver of the sun remaining. If that’s the case, then most definitely you should try to make an effort to get yourself into the totality path!
This is the first time a total solar eclipse has gone from one American coast to the other since 1918. It will also be the first time in U.S. history that a total solar eclipse will make landfall exclusively on U.S. soil, meaning it will not be visible from any other country. (This technically happened in 1257 — but, of course, the United States wasn't a country way back then.)
For that reason, some are calling this upcoming celestial event the "Great American Eclipse."
So let's concentrate on those places that will be inside the path of totality.
The Shadow's PathSlide 2 of 32
The Shadow's Path
The dark shadow of the moon — the umbra — will first touch the Earth's surface far out over the North Pacific Ocean, nearly 1,000 miles south of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, at 9:48 a.m. local time. For 27 minutes, the umbra will sweep rapidly to the east over the ocean.
Finally, the umbra will arrive along the coast of Oregon at 10:15 a.m. local time.
From there, the moon's shadow is going to race from coast to coast across the United States. That's a distance of almost 2,500 miles, from Oregon to South Carolina,and it will take the umbra just 94 minutes to travel that distance.
That works out to nearly 27 miles per minute (43 km/minute), or about 1,600 mph (2,574 km/h) — about three times faster than a commercial jetliner.
That's why, along the path of totality, the sun will appear completely covered for no more than 160 seconds.
Now, let's take an imaginary trip and follow the moon's dark shadow as it rushes across the country.
We will travel from state to state, visiting a few of the interesting places that will have a chance to experience the eerie effect of daytime darkness that accompanies a total solar eclipse.
I will also mention some places that are located just outside the total eclipse path. If you live in one of these places, please take our advice and make every effort to position yourself somewhere inside the total eclipse path instead.
Understand that even with 99 percent of the sun covered, the slightest sliver of sunlight that remains will spoil the spectacular effects that you can only get from a total eclipse.
So make an effort to get yourself inside the path!
Let's start with the first state that the shadow will visit: Oregon.Slide 3 of 32
OregonSlide 4 of 32
The moon's dark shadow will move across the Beaver State between 10:15 and 10:27 a.m. PDT. About 1.1 million people live within the path of totality in Oregon.
If you're interested in seeing more than just the eclipse during your visit, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area and Crater Lake National Park are considered to be among the top tourist attractions in the state. Schedule your visits before or after the eclipse, however, as both places are outside the totality zone.. The state's capital city, Salem, is the third largest city in Oregon and will see the sun go into total eclipse for 1 minute and 54 seconds, beginning at 10:17 a.m. Unfortunately, Oregon's largest city, Portland, will get an "almost total" eclipse. At its peak, 99.3 percent of the sun will be covered at 10:19 a.m. local time. The daylight will get quite dim, but the full effect of totality will be lost. Soooo close….Slide 5 of 32
IdahoSlide 6 of 32
The Gem State will see the moon's dark shadow brush on through between 11:24 and 11:36 a.m. local time (MDT). About 301,000 people who live in the umbra's path will be treated to the sight of the totally eclipsed sun. The largest city that will experience totality will be Idaho Falls. This city is a wonderful place to visit because it's close to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and Jackson Hole valley. In addition, people from far and wide come to Idaho Falls to fish in the nearby Snake River. Idaho Falls has been named as one of the "Top 100 Cities" in the U.S., and one of the "100 Best Adventure Towns." Totality arrives here at 11:32 a.m. and will last 1 minute and 47 seconds. Idaho's capital city of Boise will barely miss out on a total eclipse, with 99.5 percent of the sun hidden at 11:27 a.m.. Too bad.Slide 7 of 32
WyomingSlide 8 of 32