August solar eclipse may be most viewed ever

On Aug. 21, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow that will race across the heartland of America at some 1,500 mph, moving over 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina as the United States experiences its first total eclipse of the sun since 1979 and the first coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years.

More than 200 million people live within a one-day drive of the 70-mile-wide path of totality, officials said Wednesday, which will carry the moon’s shadow across hundreds of towns and cities and 20 national parks where record crowds are expected. Researchers said it may be the most watched, best observed solar eclipse in history.

Passing over Salem, Oregon, around 1:15 p.m. EDT, the moon’s shadow will race across Idaho Falls, Casper, Wyoming, most of Kansas City and parts of St. Louis before passing over Nashville — the largest city directly in the path of totality — and then darkening the sky over Greenville, Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina. The central shadow will move out over the Atlantic Ocean around 2:48 p.m.

NASA has posted a variety of maps, animations and videos showing the path of the eclipse, including a zoomable pdf and an interactive map showing when the eclipse begins, reaches maximum and ends for any point in the nation. It also shows the duration of the eclipse for each location in the path of totality.

“This is a really amazing chance to just open the public’s eyes to wonder, and to get people thinking about the most amazing natural phenomenon that happens on the surface of the Earth, a total solar eclipse, and to incorporate that into thinking about what’s going on in our cosmos,” said Angela Des Jardins, a researcher at Montana State University.

Added Linda Shore, executive director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific: “Astronomy is a very democratic science. The same laboratory that arches over the sky for scientists is the same sky that is available to everybody.”

“This is an opportunity to engage the…

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