I don't know about you, but I have solar eclipse fever!
I was too young to remember the last solar eclipse in the U.S. back in the late 1970s, so I'm going to make the most of this opportunity and hopefully see one heck of a show.
And what a show it will be for people from Oregon to South Carolina and all points in between.
But there's a lot more to an eclipse than the moon simply moving between earth and the sun.
Here's a handful of interesting tidbits about the upcoming 2017 solar eclipse.
Umbra vs. Penumbra
For the uninitiated, a solar eclipse occurs when the shadow of the moon blocks the sun's rays from reaching the surface of the earth.
If you happen to be in the path of the darkest shadow, you'll be in what's called the umbra.
Conversely, if you're toward the edges of the shadow - the penumbra - you'll only see a partial eclipse.
Still, even a partial eclipse is a sight to see!
You Need Eye Protection
Even if you're in the path of the total eclipse, you still need to protect your eyes and your camera from damage.
That's because other than the time in which it's completely dark at the height of the eclipse, there's enough sunlight to cause you permanent eye damage.
According to NASA, the safest way to view the eclipse is by using eclipse glasses or viewers that are certified for such purposes.
When looking for eye protection, look for glasses or viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard.
Even if they meet these standards, look at your glasses or viewers ahead of time to ensure they aren't damaged in any way.
The slightest scratch can render the filtering material useless, and you could end up with damaged vision.
Your Camera and Lens Need Protection, Too
If you're planning to photograph the eclipse (who isn't?!), you need to protect your gear, just like you need to protect your eyes.
Seymour Solar has a variety of Helios solar filters that will give your gear the protection it needs.
With their glass solar filter, you get a high-resolution filter with ND5 stopping power. That means it blocks out 99.999 percent of the sun's rays.
Just screw the filter onto your lens and you'll be able to take photos of the sun as the moon passes in front of it.
With sizes that range from 37mm-95mm, you can find a filter for virtually any size of lens in time for the 2017 solar eclipse.
A more budget-friendly option is the Helios Film Threaded Solar Eclipse Filter.
Like the glass filter, this one screws onto your lens and comes in a wide range of sizes to accommodate just about any lens size.
But rather than using a glass material, this filter is made of Helios Solar Film that's just .002 inches thick, but still offers ND5 light-stopping power.
If you're on a bit of a budget, this filter might be the way to go!
In other words, no matter if you're photographing the 2017 solar eclipse with your DSLR or film camera, or using a telescope or spotting scope to watch the events unfold, Seymour Solar has you covered!
Solar Eclipses Happen During the New Moon Phase
The moon has to be in a New phase if a solar eclipse is going to happen...
That's because the only lunar phase in which the moon is between us and the sun is during the New Moon.
However, a New Moon doesn't always mean an eclipse will occur.
Since the moon's orbit is tilted slightly to the earth's orbit, eclipses only happen when the sun is at the intersection of the earth's and moon's orbit paths and when the moon is in its New Phase. In most situations, the sun is either above or below this intersection, and there's no eclipse.
The Entire Continental United States Will See the Eclipse
By Wolfgang Strickling [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Though the prime viewing spots for the 2017 solar eclipse are along an arc that runs from Oregon to Wyoming to Missouri to South Carolina as shown above, everyone in the United States will have at least a view of a partial eclipse
Even as far north as Maine, viewers will see about half of the sun obscured by the moon.
Atlanta will see 97 percent coverage, Oklahoma City will see 84 percent coverage, Las Vegas will see 72 percent coverage...you get the point.
The best big city to view the eclipse, though, is Nashville, with nearly two minutes of total darkness.
The Longest Darkness is More than Two Minutes
If you're lucky enough to be in the Carbondale, Illinois area, you can experience total daytime darkness for up to two minutes, 40.2 seconds.
That level of darkness will occur just south of the city in Giant City State Park.
If you haven't already made plans to be there, you better start now. I'd get there WELL in advance if I were you!
The Longest Possible Darkness for an Eclipse is MUCH Longer...
The total solar eclipse that occurred on June 30, 1973, lasted in some areas for 6 minutes, 55 seconds.
But the longest that total darkness can occur is a whopping 7 minutes, 32 seconds.
The next eclipse event that comes anywhere close to that will be on June 13, 2132.
Bonus: The Next Eclipse in the U.S.
Fortunately, there's another total solar eclipse just around the corner.
On April 8, 2024, an eclipse will cover a path from southwestern Texas to Maine.
Depending on where you are along the path, you can experience total darkness for up to 4 minutes, 27 seconds.
After that, you'll have to wait until 2044, 2045 or 2078.
With that long of a wait, you might as well make plans now to be in the best position to see the 2017 solar eclipse!