April 2, 2020

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Tracking the 2017 Solar Eclipse

The path of the 2017 eclipse over the U.S.

(Credit: NASA/GSFC/A.T. Sinclair).

Where will you be on August 21st, 2017? That date isn’t as far away as you think. Just over three and half years from now, a total solar eclipse will span contiguous United States from the Pacific Northwest to the southeastern Atlantic seaboard. This will be the first solar eclipse to grace the lower 48 states since 1979, and the first time totality has crossed any of the 50 states since 1991. Eclipse chasers worldwide are already gearing up for the historic event, and millions live within an easy drive of the eclipse track.

Eclipse cartographer and historian Michael Zeiler (@EclipseMaps on Twitter) has put together a great video which includes an accurate animation of the Moon’s umbra as it crosses the United States:

Total Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017 from Michael Zeiler on Vimeo.

See your home town in there? The umbra takes just 94 minutes to cross the United States, and the maximum duration for totality is just shy of 2 minutes and 42 seconds in southern Illinois.

Generally speaking, weather predictions favor the United States northwest with prospects getting worse towards the southeast… think mid-August in the late morning versus early afternoon, when daytime heating can cause summer thundershowers to begin to form.

Use this animation as a planner to scout out your viewing site now. And stick around the Illinois, Missouri and Kentucky tri-state region for just under another seven years until April 8th, 2024, and you’ll get to see another total solar eclipse crossing the United States from the southwest to the northeast! The “eclipse drought” is almost over!

And as for us, we’re planning on mocking the weather forecasts and viewing the eclipse from the Melton Memorial Observatory in Columbia, South Carolina. Why? Because hubris rules!



  1. Larry Koehn says:

    I ran the Melton Memorial Observatory from 1976 through 1978 while attending USC. Great times there including seeing Mars occult a 2nd magnitude star in Gemini. First time I ever saw star light twinkle from another planet!

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