Total Solar Eclipse To Hit The United States in August 2017

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Apr 25, 2017 12:38 PM EDT

A total eclipse will happen in the United States on Aug. 21. This will be the first to be visible to Americans in almost 40 years. Here are some of the things that you need to know about this rare and spectacular event.

Known as the "Great American Total Solar Eclipse," the phenomenon will cover a width of 70 miles from Oregon to South Carolina. reports that the last time a total solar eclipse happened was on Feb. 26, 1979. However, the eclipse of 2017 will be different as it will mark the first time in 99 years that such a phenomenon has been readily available to people from coast to coast.

Most solar eclipses are of the partial variety with 2 to 5 happening yearly on an average. However, a total eclipse happens just once every 18 months. When they do happen, they are often inaccessible to watchers. The Aug. 21 total solar eclipse will mark the first time that the totality path completely lies within the United States since 1776.

Eclipse expert Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College in Massachusetts, encourages every American to plan a trip to the said locations. "It's a tremendous opportunity. It's a chance to see the universe change around you." Pasachoff said. He himself has observed 63 solar eclipses to date.

C/Net reveals that NASA has prepared a helpful Google map for finding the best spots for viewing the eclipse. There are also travel agencies that are already accepting bookings for eclipse trips. The town of Hopkinsville in Kentucky, where the eclipse will last longest at 2 minutes and 40 seconds, has been preparing for the Aug. 21, 2017 eclipse for years now.

Pasachoff advises those who will make the trip to bring eye-protection filters and use them when viewing the eclipse. "If you are in the path of totality, you are seeing the main event, but if you are off to the side even where the sun is 99 percent covered by the moon, it is like going up to the ticket booth of a baseball or football stadium but not going inside." Pasachoff explained.

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