Total Solar Eclipse In North America: Make Plans Now

If you haven’t marked your calendars yet, do it now: A complete solar eclipse takes place in North America on August 21. And people are booking prime viewing spots now.

total solar eclipse

For the first time in almost 40 years, the moon will completely block out the sun for onlookers in the contiguous U.S. The once-in-a-generation event has already compelled states to make more campsites available to coincide with prime viewing times.

The last total solar eclipse visible to Americans outside of Hawaii occurred in 1979. And that was only visible to residents of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. Everywhere else experienced a partial eclipse.

2017 total solar eclipse map
The 2017 total solar eclipse ‘Path of Totality’

But this year’s “path of totality,” the area where the full eclipse is visible,” will sweep a grand arc from the Pacific Northwest across Georgia.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse

This year’s eclipse is uncommon. The last eclipse to span both coasts was 99 years ago. Another total eclipse won’t be visible from the west coast to the east until 2045. That will be the last time it happens this century.

As a result, states within the path of totality are capitalizing on the potential for tourism. In Oregon, rural residents are renting out camping lots for $100 a night for the eclipse. In Idaho, park campgrounds that usually run $10 a night on a first-come, first-served basis, will command $55 premium-viewing reservations. And Wyoming is throwing a weeklong party, imaginatively titled “Eclipse Festival,” leading up to viewing day.

How To Watch The Eclipse

Rosewithan Eclipse viewer

The hoopla is justified. This rare event is a great excuse to get outside and see something many people never do. But you don’t have to pay event fees to enjoy this year’s eclipse. A local park, your backyard, or lakeside path are all terrific options. You could even pull over to the side of the road (if it’s safe!) for a few minutes to observe it.

Of course, if you can’t get outside in time (or if you’re just no fun at all) you can stream the eclipse live.

Here’s some tips to help you get the most out of the Apocalypse—err, eclipse:

Total Eclipse Viewing

  • Can I look directly at it?
    • No, UNLESS you are in the path of totality AND the sun is 100% blocked
  • What states will see a total eclipse?
    • Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina
  • Where are the best places to see it?
    • The big cities in the path of totality: Jackson Hole, Wyo., St. Louis, Mo., Nashville, Tenn., and Columbia, S.C.
  • How do I make a viewing device?
    • Lots of DIY viewer instructions are available here
  • How long will the eclipse last?
    • Depending on where you’re viewing, the sun will be totally blocked by the moon for up to 2 minutes 41 seconds

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie – from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it’s outside, it’s worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.

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