The Great American Eclipse

August 21, 2017


Click on Map for Google Interactive Map


This eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse visible from the United States since the solar eclipse of July 11, 1991 (which was seen only from part of Hawaii), and the first visible from the contiguous United States since 1979.  The path of totality of the solar eclipse of February 26, 1979 passed only through the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota.

The August 2017 eclipse will be the first with a path of totality crossing the USA’s Pacific coast and Atlantic coast since 1918. Also, its path of totality makes landfall exclusively within the United States, making it the first such eclipse since the country’s independence in 1776. 


What you need to know…

Information on the eclipse can be found in many places on the web**. This page is an attempt to consolidate the basic information on what you need to do to safely view the eclipse and what you might expect.


**Web links:

While there are many places online to get eclipse information, very good place I’ve found is at – Earth Sky has various interactive maps, detailed maps, information on weather, eclipse photography and more.


Other sites:

NASA eclipse site

NASA 2017 eclipse site

Great American Eclipse website

Free Mobile App:

 Eclipse Safari


General planning…

This may be obvious information, but I’ll mention it anyway. A total solar eclipse is a very special event. To have one cross the entire United States is very rare. The proximity of this eclipse may lull some into thinking, “I’ll drive over and take a look”, without giving much thought to planning. Regardless of whether you have been planning for years or mere weeks you need to be ready.

In planning for the eclipse, take a scouting trip to your planned observing area if at all possible. This will help you see the lay of the land and get you more familiar with the area. This could be very useful if there is a need to relocate at the last minute.
Practice setting up and using your equipment at home. This will give you a chance to test your equipment, fix or replace any items that are not working. Also practice taking pictures now. This will give you a better idea of what settings are required and what to expect on eclipse day.

Plan to arrive early. Expect to get to your site and set up AT LEAST 3 hours before totality. You will have the partial phases of the eclipse to watch and you do not want to be rushed as totality is approaching. I would highly recommend getting to within an hours drive of your location on Sunday night, allowing plenty of time on Monday morning to get to your observing site.

Additional information on the MAS Discussion forums can be found by selecting the following links:

2017 Great American Eclipse Planning (Suresh Sreenivasan)

Tours prior to ALCON 2017 Casper, WY (Brandon Hamil)


Eclipse viewing basics…

I won’t get into what an eclipse is or how rare this event is, there are many places online to find this information. I do want to stress what you need to do to safely view the eclipse. On almost every website you will see information on safely viewing the eclipse, so let me get that out of the way.

CAUTION: Whenever viewing the sun, viewing safety is paramount.

NEVER   attempt to observe the partial or annular phases of any eclipse with the naked eye.
NEVER   use an unfiltered telescope or binoculars to view the sun.

NEVER  use a damaged solar filter or damaged solar eyeglasses to view the sun.
NEVER   look through an unfiltered camera to view the sun.
NEVER   look through the “pinhole”of a “Projection Box” to view the sun.

And an oldie but a goodie, 
NEVER   look through a photo negative to view the sun (although it’s getting harder to find film anymore).

Failure to use appropriate filtration may result in permanent eye damage or blindness! 

To view the eclipse, look through dark welder’s glass, or build a projection box by poking a pinhole in the side of a cardboard box and watching the sunlight projected inside the box.  Click the following link for additional tips on Safely Viewing the Eclipse.

Now, all that being said, it is completely safe to view the Totally Eclipsed Sun. For this eclipse there will be roughly 2 to 2 1/2 minutes of totality from the central line of the eclipse when the sun will be completely covered by the moon. This time will be shorter the farther you are from the central line. Take this time to remove the solar filters and view the solar eclipse in all its glory. During totality you will be able to see the solar corona and brighter stars and planets near the sun. Grab a camera or cell phone and take a few pictures, but try not to fixate on pictures to much.


As totality ends, even before the sun reappears from behind the moon, REPLACE YOUR SOLAR FILTER(S) AND SOLAR OBSERVING GLASSES.  As the sun re-emerges the dangerous observing conditions return and it is no longer safe to view the unfiltered solar disk.


Where to go…

I-35 @ Lathrop, Mo

This eclipse is relatively convenient for almost anyone in the county to get to. Most people I know have had their observing location planned for months if not years. If you haven’t already made a plan on where to see the eclipse here is the link to one resource to help you make a decision. Keep in mind that you may need to find a hotel / motel well off the central line of the eclipse at this stage.

Most of what I’ve been hearing is to avoid the eastern states, as the eclipse happens later in the day and the chances of clouds developing in the afternoon increase. Most people’s travel plans I know are to view from Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho or Oregon.

If you’re more of a “I’ll make a decision at the last minute” observer, that could work too. For a last minute “Day Trip”, the most convent location would be just north of Kansas City, near the town of Lathrop, Mo.. The eclipse path crosses I-35 just after 12:00 noon. The distance is about 400 miles from downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul and would take about 6 hours to get there.

Another close location might be St. Joseph, Mo. This is a much larger city and is only an additional 20 miles west of I-35. St. Joseph will undoubtedly have more options for food and lodging.

From the interactive map link above you can get the timing of the eclipse from this location as well.