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Solar Eclipse August 21st, 2017

Looking directly at the sun without eye protection can cause serious eye damage or blindness. But there are ways to safely observe the sun. During a partial solar eclipse, people often use pinhole cameras to watch the progress of the moon across the sun’s surface (pinhole cameras are easy to make at home). This is an “indirect” way of observing the sun, because the viewer sees only a projection of the sun and the moon.

To view the sun directly (and safely), use “solar-viewing glasses” or “eclipse glasses” or “personal solar filters” (these are all names for the same thing), according to the safety recommendations from NASA. The “lenses” of solar-viewing glasses are made from special-purpose solar filters that are hundreds of thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses, according to Rick Fienberg, press officer for the American Astronomical Society (AAS). These glasses are so dark that the face of the sun should be the only thing visible through them, Fienberg said. Solar-viewing glasses can be used to view a solar eclipse, or to look for sunspots on the sun’s surface.

But beware! NASA and the AAS recommend that solar-viewing or eclipse glasses meet the current international standard: ISO 12312-2. Some older solar-viewing glasses may meet previous standards for eye protection, but not the new international standard, Fienberg said.

During a total solar eclipse, the disk of the moon blocks out the last sliver of light from the sun, and the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, becomes visible. The corona is far from an indistinct haze; skywatchers report seeing great jets and ribbons of light, twisting and curling out into the sky.

“It brings people to tears,” Rick Fienberg, a spokesperson for the American Astronomical Society (AAS), told Space.com of the experience. “It makes people’s jaw drop.”

During totality, the area inside the moon’s shadow is cloaked in twilight — a very strange feeling to experience in the middle of the day. Just before and just after totality, observers can see this cloak of darkness moving toward them across the landscape, and then moving away.

These effects are not visible during a partial solar eclipse, so skywatchers are encouraged to see if they are inside the path of totality during the total eclipse.

The path of totality for the Aug. 21, 2017, total solar eclipse is about 70 miles wide and stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. It passes through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

You can use this interactive map from NASA to zoom in on the path and find out the exact locations from which it will be visible.

You can also check out our state-by-state guide to find out which major cities and prime locations will fall inside the path of totality. You may also want to attend one of the many eclipse parties and organized events taking place around the path of totality.

The timing of the total solar eclipse and its duration both depend on where you are inside the path of totality.

At most, the moon will completely cover the disk of the sun for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. That’s about how long totality will last for observers positioned anywhere along the center of the path of totality. As you move toward the edge of the path, the duration of totality will decrease. People standing at the very edge of the path may observe totality for only a few seconds.

The chart below lists the moment of mid-totality and the duration of totality for a handful of cities that lie close to the center of the path. Data from NASA.

Eclipse Begins Totality Begins Totality Ends Eclipse Ends
Madras, OR 09:06 a.m. 10:19 a.m. 10:21 a.m. 11:41 a.m. PDT
Idaho Falls, ID 10:15 a.m. 11:33 a.m. 11:34 a.m. 12:58 p.m. MDT
Casper, WY 10:22 a.m. 11:42 a.m. 11:45 a.m. 01:09 p.m. MDT
Lincoln, NE 11:37 a.m. 01:02 p.m. 01:04 p.m. 02:29 p.m. CDT
Jefferson City, MO 11:46 a.m. 01:13 p.m. 01:15 p.m. 02:41 p.m. CDT
Carbondale, IL 11:52 a.m. 01:20 p.m. 01:22 p.m. 02:47 p.m. CDT
Paducah, KY 11:54 a.m. 01:22 p.m. 01:24 p.m. 02:49 p.m. CDT
Nashville, TN 11:58 a.m. 01:27 p.m. 01:29 p.m. 02:54 p.m. CDT
Clayton, GA 01:06 p.m. 02:35 p.m. 02:38 p.m. 04:01 p.m. EDT
Columbia, SC 01:03 p.m. 02:41 p.m. 02:44 p.m. 04:06 p.m. EDT

Because the shadow of the moon will move from west to east, totality will occur later in the day the farther east you travel. Use the NASA interactive eclipse map to find out exactly when totality will occur and how long it will last in the location where you plan to observe the eclipse. Just click on a spot on the map, and an informational box will appear with specific times.