Excitement about this year's total eclipse has been happening for long time. Astronomers, meteorologists, scientists and space nerds across the world have been all over this! There are websites, t-shirts, posters, big foam fingers pointing to the sky and solar eclipse chasers that will be flooding to a very narrow strip of Earth to see this event. It has been a well-known fact that on August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible across much of the United States. This has not happened over the United States since 1918, and probably won't again for a long time.
But what is it, and why is it a big deal?
Let's talk about eclipses
An eclipse is when a moon or planet moves into the shadow of another moon or planet. Many of us are familiar with the terms "lunar eclipse" and "solar eclipse", or at least we've heard of them. Here is a little bit of planet science. The moon orbits around the Earth, but the Earth (and it's Moon) also orbits around Sun. At some point during the course of these two orbits, the Earth will move between the sun and the moon. When Earth is positioned between the sun and the moon, it blocks the sun from shining on the moon (which is normally how we can see it) and as a result, Earth casts a shadow onto the moon - this is a total lunar eclipse (and only happens with a full moon). Another result of the moon's orbit around the earth, the moon can sometimes become positioned between the earth and the sun. In this case, the moon creates a shadow and blocks the sun's light - this is called a total solar eclipse (and only happens with a new moon).
There are partial lunar and solar eclipses that can be seen frequently around the world, but total eclipses happen much less frequently and are only visible from various places on Earth. Let's put it this way: it is rare that you will be in the right place at the right time to see one in your life-time.
Why don't total eclipses happen all the time? In order for total eclipses to happen, the sun, moon and earth all have be lined up perfectly. Because the moon's orbit around the earth is tilted differently than the earth's orbit around the sun, the moon normally crosses above or below the shadow of the earth (preventing all three from lining up). This inability to line up perfectly however, is the reason partial eclipses are much more common.
Why is this year a big deal?
On August 21st, a total solar eclipse will be visible along a narrow path across the entire continental United States. The last time this was visible over the United States was in 1918. So this may be the only opportunity you have to see it in your life-time. You could see another one in your life-time, but it won't be visible in this part of the world. There are people that "chase" total eclipses, eclipse chasers. You could do that?!
Where do I have to go to see it?
If you live within the narrow gray band on the map, you will see a total solar eclipse (as long as the sky is cloud-free). If you live anywhere in the continental United States, you will at least see a partial solar eclipses (50% to 90% coverage of the sun). Either way...super cool, right?! Depending on your location, this will be happening for a few hours in the morning, with total coverage between 10:30am (west coast) and 2:50pm (east coast).
If you live in Wyoming, get ready to see our state's population potentially triple! The area within the gray band is where the eclipse will be 100% visible, meaning the entire sun will be covered by the moon, and the area will be in the full shadow (called the umbra). Outside that gray area, the eclipse will still be visible, but technically it will be a partial eclipse (still 90%-95% visible, pretty awesome). The shadow created by a partial eclipse is called the preumbra.
What time do I need to watch the sky?
The two maps above show the time when the eclipse will be full, or when the sun will be as covered as it's going to be. The total time the sun is covered (and it turns a little darker outside) will be 2 minutes and 41 seconds, but the entire process of the moon starting to move into and out of the position of covering the sun's light will be about 2-3 hours.
What time will the eclipse happen in your town?
Why regular sunglasses won't cut it.
So here's the kicker....in order to see this eclipse, you need to look directly at the sun, and for more than a few minutes. The bad thing about staring into the sun and watching this eclipse is the fact that it could seriously harm your eyeballs and your vision, permanently. This needs to be taken very seriously, and a big goal of this post is to educate on how to watch the eclipses safely. Remember, the sun is an enormous massive ball of galactic super-fire, hotter than you can imagine. You must wear special eclipse glasses to look at the sun, especially if you want to see something more than just overwhelming brightness.
Special eclipse glasses are safest if they are ISO certified, which means the lenses follow a regulated standard criteria of a optical density of 5 or greater.
Where Can I Can Eclipse Glasses?
We thought you'd never ask. First....you might think about getting them soon, because the supplies are limited and we expected to SELL OUT before the eclipse event on August 21st.
Stop by our office Monday through Friday, 8am-11am to get your pair!
You're welcome to call ahead of time too (307-638-6054) and ask for Dara.
We are located at 4101 Evans Ave, 2nd floor of the old air traffic control tower (sign on tower says "DayWeather")
If you try to watch the eclipse with the naked eye and without any protection from UV rays, you will most certainly damage your eyes and honestly, it will be way too bright to even see anything besides a huge mass of brightness. It will actually physically hurt to stare at the sun and you will likely not be able to see anything else for the rest of the day or longer...
Unfortunately, normal sunglasses wont help either and will be just as bad. Sunglasses are not nearly dark enough or made with the right material or provide the proper protection from the sun's UV rays. Do NOT wear regular sunglasses to watch the eclipse, you will damage your eyes.
Wait, there's one catch...
The weather does play a role in this event. Regardless on whether you are in the right place to see the eclipse or not, it will not be visible if there is thick cloud-cover, rain or fog. If certain areas are cloudy and other close-by areas are not, there could be a flood of people moving in the direction of clear skies. Please keep in mind to check the forecast a few days before and travel safe with some planning involved.
Our local meteorologists here at DayWeather will be updating forecasts daily for the following states: Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.
You'll want to check out WeatherSlant's customized location forecasts!
Be safe, have fun and enjoy!