Total solar eclipse to sweep full width of US

This August, the U.S. will experience its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 99 years.

Total solar eclipses occur every year or two or three, often in the middle of nowhere like the South Pacific or Antarctic. What makes this one so special — at least for Americans — is that it will cut diagonally across the entire United States.

The path of totality on Aug. 21 — where day briefly becomes night — will pass over Oregon, continuing through the heartland all the way to Charleston, South Carolina. Those on the outskirts — all the way into Canada, Central America and even the upper part of South America — will be treated to a partial eclipse.

The last time a total solar eclipse swept the whole width of the U.S. was in 1918.

No tickets are required for this Monday matinee, just special eclipse glasses so you don’t ruin your eyes.

Here are some eclipse tidbits as you get ready to feast your protected eyes on perhaps the greatest of all cosmic spectacles.

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WHAT’S A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE?

When the moon passes between Earth and the sun, and scores a bull’s eye by completely blotting out the sunlight, that’s a total solar eclipse. The moon casts a shadow on our planet. Dead center is where sky gazers get the full treatment. In this case, the total eclipse will last up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds in places. A partial eclipse will be visible along the periphery. Clouds could always spoil the view, though, so be ready to split for somewhere with clear skies, if necessary.

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WHAT’S THE PATH ON AUG. 21?

The path of totality — meaning total darkness — will begin near Lincoln City, Oregon, as the lunar shadow makes its way into the U.S. This path will be 60 miles to 70 miles wide; the closer to the center, the longer the totality. Totality will cross from Oregon into Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and, finally, South Carolina. (It will also pass over tiny slivers…

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