How to See the Total Solar Eclipse on August 21

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On Monday, August 21, as the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun, a total solar eclipse will make its way mile by mile across the contiguous United States.

 


At certain places along its path, the Moon will completely obscure the Sun, blocking out its light for about three minutes. On a cloudless day, these places directly in the path of the “totality,” or central shadow, will suddenly go from brilliant sunshine to a sky dark enough to see stars and nearby planets.

 

View of the sun completely blocked by the moon.

View of a total solar eclipse that occurred on July 22, 2009. 

Courtesy of Luftan Rahman Nirjhar/Wikimedia Commons


This total solar eclipse—the first to cross the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic since 1918—will start in Oregon at 10:17 am PDT and end in South Carolina at 2:44 pm EDT. Locations outside the direct path, including the New York metropolitan area, will experience a partial solar eclipse. In New York, the Moon will cover more than 70 percent of the Sun. 

“If it’s bright and sunny, for a little while it will feel oddly like a cloudy day,” says astronomer Charles Liu. “The light won’t seem quite right.”

 

Partial view of the earth as seen from space with a large shadow on cloud cover.

The gray shadow of the moon, cast on bright clouds of the northern Pacific Ocean, during the May 20, 2012 solar eclipse.

Courtesy of Don Pettit/NASA


Heads up, New Yorkers! For maximum drama, spend a good deal of time outside until until the partial eclipse is about to begin at 1:23 pm. Then go inside until just before the peak time—2:44 pm—is about to be reached. Step outside then, and you should immediately notice the difference. Or, using safety glasses approved by a reputable authority, stay out and watch the Moon gradually overtake the Sun and then pass it by until the partial eclipse ends around 4 pm.

For safe viewing tips, including a link to sources for protective glasses, visit NASA's “Eclipse101” website.

(If you want to follow the total eclipse in real time that day and learn more about it, come to the Museum’s Rose Center for Earth and Space to see a live broadcast from NASA. This program is free for Members or with Museum admission.) 

The outer edge of the lunar shadow will leave the United States at 4:01 pm EDT—the last time a total solar eclipse will affect the continental United States until April 8, 2024, when northern New York State will be central to the action. To experience the totality, the curious need only shuffle off to Buffalo!