The 2017 Solar Eclipse: How To Make Sure You Get To See It

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We’ll be traveling to see the 2017 Solar Eclipse in the US! All the way from Israel!

In my post about our travel plans for the summer of 2017 I had already mentioned that viewing the total eclipse is part of our itinerary. I’ve been researching the topic for awhile now, so time to put it all into a blog post. I hope this post encourages others to join us in making the effort to witness this awesome event!

So, how to make sure you have the best possible chance of seeing this one-in-a-lifetime show?

The 2017 Solar Eclipse: How To Make Sure You Get To See It

Why would you want to experience a total solar eclipse?

A total eclipse of the sun is a phenomenal event. People who were fortunate enough to view one describe a tremendously uplifting and even spiritual experience.

For one to two minutes, a bright sunny day turns into a totally dark and cold night. Everything turns silent. The birds stop chirping and people shudder as the temperatures drop. It feels like something huge and strange is happening and when you look up at the sun (using protective gear!) you can actually see something that’s impossible to see in any other way: the sun’s corona. That’s the sun’s “atmosphere” that’s usually masked by the sun’s own brightness and can only be seen during a full eclipse.

For science geeks like us, the opportunity to experience this unique astronomical phenomenon is simply irresistible. We had been planning a long US road trip during the summer of 2017 anyway. The fact that a full solar eclipse is taking place on the serendipitous date of August 21st was just impossible to ignore. Of course we are going to be there for that! Duh!

Where can you see the eclipse?

The eclipse basically moves along the continent, from west to east, going through the following states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. According to NASA, all of these states will have areas where you can experience 100% obscuration of the sun, i.e. a total eclipse. NASA made this awesome Google Map that has all the information you need about times and location for viewing the eclipse.

Are there any specific locations that are better than others?

There are two main considerations for finding the ideal eclipse-viewing spot.

1. Length of the eclipse 

If you look at the NASA map, you’ll see a wide strip in which there will be a full eclipse can be seen. There’s a red line in the middle of that band that marks the points where the totality will be the longest in that area. Also, as the eclipse heads east, the overall time of totality increases. That’s until the eclipse hits Kentucky. After Kentucky, it gradually shortens again.

2. The weather

The worst possible thing you can have on eclipse day is a cloudy sky with no line of sight to the sun. The good news is that late August the chances for getting a clear sky are good across the US. That said, the odds vary from one location to another.

Jay Anderson and Jennifer West created Eclipsophile.com where they share very specific recommendations based on meterological predictions. Yes, they actually offer a weather forecast for August 21st, 2017! NASA recommends their website so we can safely assume it is a reliable source. Here’s what they say –

August is a sunny month everywhere in the continental United States, and measurements of sunshine hours at locations along the track show at least a 60 percent probability of seeing the eclipse. At the best sites in Oregon and Idaho, that probability rises to 85 percent.

In Oregon, you should be on the eastern side of the Cascade mountains. The lowest chance of clouds there is around the town of Madras, not far from Bend, OR. In Idaho, it is the areas north of Boise that will be in the direct path of the full eclipse. Boise itself is not in the path of the full eclipse! You can definitely stay in Boise but you’ll have to drive up north in the morning to the area of small towns like Lime, OR. A good location to stay at for seeing the eclipse in the Boise area is in fact also in Oregon. It’s the town of Ontario, OR, which has a fair selection of motels you can stay at. You can see a total eclipse in Ontario itself, although it would be better to drive up north for half an hour and reach Lime where the 100% obscuration will last for longer.

One more spot that’s worth mentioning is Jackson, WY. It’s less predictable than the Boise and Madras because of the Grand Tetons range which could cause clouds to form. Jackson’s chance of clouds stands at 33%, compared to Boise’s and Madras’ 25%. That said, anyone watching the eclipse from the Grand Tetons, is certainly going to have a gorgeous backdrop for their pictures!

When can you view the eclipse?

Unlike the location, the date is set in stone. The eclipse is going to take place on August 21st, 2017. It starts in the west and begins on the coast of Oregon at 09:04:33 and will reach its peak there at 10:16:56.

As it heads east, the eclipse also becomes longer. The totality – when the moon’s shadow actually covers the sun – will last one minute in the West Coast and just over 2 and a half minutes by the time the eclipse reaches the East Coast.

What would you need to see the eclipse?

I’m sure your parents told you that you should never stare at the sun, no matter what? They were absolutely right.

I’m sure there will be a lot of public health warnings as the day approaches. According to Prof. Ralph Chou, associate professor of optometry at the University of Waterloo, there is such a thing as “eclipse blindness”. He writes about in on NASA’s website and warns that –

Exposure of the retina to intense visible light causes damage to its light-sensitive rod and cone cells. The light triggers a series of complex chemical reactions within the cells which damages their ability to respond to a visual stimulus, and in extreme cases, can destroy them. The result is a loss of visual function which may be either temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of the damage.

In other words, if you look at the sun, you’ll go blind. He goes on to mention that while looking at the sun during 100% obscurity at the very high point of the eclipse can be done without protective gear, if you miss that by 1% you’re going to hurt your eyes. At 99% obscuration, when everything around seems fairly dark, you still should protect your eyes from that 1% of direct sunlight.

Please stay safe: Use protective gear throughout all phases of the eclipse.

That’s what we plan to do.

I’m sure there will be a lot of people selling eclipse-viewing gear along the path of the event. I think it’s fair to assume that it won’t be cheap and it will get more expensive the closer you get to the date, as some places will be running out of eclipse glasses. Just market forces in action.

I looked up eclipse glasses on Amazon and there’s a huge variety. Most of them are fairly expensive and will cost you $20-$40 a pair! That’s a LOT of money for an item that you’ll be using for one single afternoon.

There are cheaper alternatives. I found these at under $1 a pair –solar eclipse glasses

These paper glasses are obviously not too durable and they’re not meant to be used more than once.  Here’s what the makers say

Our EclipsersTM filter out 100% of harmful ultra-violet, 100% of harmful infrared, and 99.999% of intense visible light. Our premium filters create the sharpest solar images with a natural orange color. For your safety, the backside is pre-printed with warnings and instructions. Our eclipse glasses are independently tested and are ISO and CE certified for the safest direct solar viewing. These eclipse viewing glasses are manufactured exclusively with scratch resistant Black Polymer material and have an optical density of 5 or greater.

There are many alternatives on Amazon. You can click here and browse through: Safety glasses for watching the solar eclipse style=.
As with other links to products, these are affiliate links. This means if you buy after clicking I get a very small amount. It doesn’t cost you anything extra. Thanks in advance!

So, now that you know where and when you can watch this amazing once-in-a-lifetime event, do you think you’ll make the effort to get there? Or maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who live right on the path of the eclipse? I’d love to hear about your plans in the comments section!

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2 comments

  1. In your lists of states through which the path of totality travels, you’re missing Nebraska and North Carolina. In fact, Nebraska represents the longest portion of the path! Otherwise, this is a great post, and thanks for helping to spread the news about the 2017 eclipse. It’s going to be an amazing event! Your readers are invited to visit NationalEclipse.com for more great information.

    1. Thank you for the comment! You’re absolutely right, of course! I just edited the post and fixed that.
      Sorry, Nebraska and North Carolina!

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