The Great American Eclipse – when is it, where is it , and how to watch it

On Monday, August 21 the sun, moon and Earth will line up in an act of cosmic serendipity that will turn day across the 2,680-mile width of the United States.

It will be the first time that has happened in nearly a century, and never will a total solar eclipse be so heavily viewed and studied.

From Oregon in the west, to South Carolina in the east, there will be festivals and flamboyant eclipse viewing parties. And of course, traffic gridlock, an social media explosion, and general chaos

As one astronomer put it: “This will be the most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history.”

How unusual an event is this?

Full solar eclipses, when the moon positions itself smack between the sun and the Earth, happen every few years but often in remote areas or over the ocean.

This will be the first total solar eclipse in 99 years to cross the US coast-to-coast, and the first to pass through any part of the lower 48 states in 38 years.

An illustration from Nasa Credit: AFP

Where is it happening?

The path of totality – where the light of the sun is completely blocked out by the moon – is 70 miles wide and stretches from Lincoln City, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, passing through 14 states and 21 National Parks

The total eclipse will last about 90 minutes as the lunar shadow sweeps across America at more than 1,500 mph beginning about 10.15 am west coast time. On the east coast it will end at 2.49 pm east coast time.

Eclipse Fests, StarFests, SolarFests, SolFests, Darkening of the SunFests, MoonshadowFests, EclipseCons, Eclipse Encounters and Star Parties are planned along the path of totality.

Vineyards, breweries, museums, parks, universities, stadiums, just about everybody is getting into the act.

Schoolchildren wearing protective glasses Credit: Reuters

What if you’re not in the US?

Don’t worry, Nasa will be broadcasting the whole thing on the internet and TV.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will beam back pictures, as will ships and planes and high altitude balloons.

“This is a really amazing chance to just open the public’s eyes to wonder,” said physicist Angela Des Jardins, who is in charge of Nasa’ eclipse video ballooning project.

Eclipses mean chaos

Will there be chaos? Undoubtedly. An estimated 200 million people live within a day’s drive of the path of totality and huge crowds are expected.

The lightly populated state of Oregon is expecting up to one million eclipse chasers and is treating the event as an emergency….

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