Why The Great American Eclipse of 2017 Will Be So Great

Professional and amateur astronomers alike are gearing up for what may become the most viewed sky event in history.

On August 21, 2017, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun during the first total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States in 38 years. The last solar eclipse occurred February 26, 1979, but was only visible from five states in the Northwest.

The Great American Eclipse will hit land in Oregon and travel across the country to South Carolina where it will then only be visible from the Atlantic Ocean – making the U.S. the only country that will be lucky enough to experience this historic event.


The entire country will see a partial eclipse, but only people in the “Path of Totality” will experience a total eclipse, view the iconic two diamond rings, and revel at the 360 º corona.

Because the moon’s shadow is round, those viewers nearest the center line of the Path of Totality will experience a longer eclipse. Madras, Oregon is a prime location not only for being on the center line, but also because, based on past weather patterns, it has a high probability of clear skies on August 21.


The solar totality will last a brief, but amazing 2 minutes and 40 seconds. The next total solar eclipse to fall across the United States won’t occur until April 8, 2024.

By Kevin Schindler, Lowell Observatory Public Information Officer and Historian


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