Total solar eclipse 2017: What you need to know

Last Updated: Thursday, July 27, 2017, 11:29 AM EDT

Originally posted on: Monday, July 24, 2017 

America is in for a rare celestial treat next month.

A total solar eclipse will race across the skies of the U.S. on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. And those in Central Florida will get to see a good part of it during the afternoon of that day.

But what exactly is a solar eclipse?

What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth and blocks the sun, explained NASA. It happens because of a coincidence of the moon and the sun being the same angular size.

The last time the contiguous United States saw a total solar eclipse was in February 1979.

When will the eclipse take place?

All of North America will be able to see at least a partial total eclipse, but the timing depends on location, according to NASA.

A strip across the country, about 70 miles wide, will be able to witness the total eclipse. The longest period that the moon will block the sun for people in those areas will be about 2 minutes, 40 seconds.

However, Central Florida will see the maximum of the partial total eclipse at 2:51 p.m.

 

Eclipse safety

Except for the short "total" phase of the solar eclipse (totality), when the sun is entirely blocked by the moon, precautions need to be taken to safely view the eclipse. Staring at the sun directly can damage eyes, and sunglasses are NOT strong enough to protect your eyes during an eclipse.

NASA offers the following tips for eye safety during the eclipse:

  • Sunglasses or handmade filters are not safe methods for viewing an eclipse and may damage your eyes.

  • Eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers are both good options for viewing the eclipse. According to NASA, the following brands make products that meet safety standards: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17.

  • Experts also suggest using number 14 welder's glass to view the solar eclipse. The glass should be number 14 or an even darker filter. 

  • Telescopes with solar filters and pinhole projectors are also viable options.

  • Do not remove your glasses or solar viewer while staring at the sun.

  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope or binoculars. Also, even while using your eclipse glasses or solar viewers, do not look through a camera, telescope or binoculars because the solar rays can damage the filter and enter your eyes. 

  • Only take off solar glasses or viewers when the sun is completely covered by the moon.

  • No matter what technique you use to protect your eyes during the eclipse, it is important to still take breaks and not stare continuously at the sun.

Eclipse Fun Facts by astronomy.com:

  • This solar eclipse will be the first one the continental U.S. has seen in 38 years.

  • The first city to experience this eclipse in the continental U.S. will be Government Point, Oregon, at 10:15 a.m. PT/1:15 p.m. ET.

  • Of large U.S. cities, Nashville will have the best view of the total eclipse.

  • Feeling a 10 to 15 degree drop in temperature during the eclipse is not unusual. Also, nature tends to quiet down while it's taking place.

  • The next solar eclipse for the continental U.S. will take place on April 8, 2024. After that, it’ll be 20 years until the next one on Aug. 23, 2044.

  • Places on the center line will be the best locations to view the eclipse from. The center line crosses through states including:
    • Oregon
    • Wyoming
    • Nebraska
    • Kansas
    • Illinois
    • Missouri
    • Kentucky
    • Tennessee
    • Idaho
    • North Carolina 
    • South Carolina

See the path of the solar eclipse