You may have seen a solar eclipse before, but the odds are good that you haven’t witnessed anything like the total solar eclipse that will roll across the contiguous United States a little over two years from now. In fact, if you haven’t already started making your plan for the first great American eclipse of the century, you might already be behind.
If you’ve seen an eclipse in the US, it was probably just a partial eclipse, which astronomy enthusiasts will tell you is nothing compared with seeing a solar eclipse in totality, when our star goes completely black save for its eerie corona, the sky dims and stars can become visible in the daytime.
The last time such a thing was witnessed in the US was 1991, and that was only from certain parts of Hawaii. The contiguous 48 states haven’t seen a total eclipse since 1979, when one sort of drifted through the northwest quarter of the country — we haven’t had one coast-to-coast since 1918.
The total solar eclipse will first become visible from the Oregon coastline on August 21, 2017, at 10:17 a.m. between Lincoln City and Newport, and then march all the way to the Atlantic near Charleston, S.C.. While at least a partial eclipse will be visible from all of North America and parts of other continents, to experience the the full solar disappearing act, you’ll need to be somewhere along the narrow corridor in the map above at just the right time, and ideally with clear skies.
Notable potential viewing locations include Salem, Ore.; Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming; parts of St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tenn. — and finally Charleston, S.C., will also see anywhere between a few seconds and a few minutes of a total solar eclipse. Bizarrely for me personally, the path of the eclipse will cast its long shadow on both of the small towns where I attended college in Oregon and in Missouri.
NASA offers this particularly helpful Google map to help plan the best spots to view the eclipse from, and a handful of travel agencies are already taking reservations for eclipse trips, particularly from Europe. There’s also a handy breakdown here of where you’ll be able to see what.