KSTP's Guide to the Total Solar Eclipse

September 13, 2017 09:10 AM

Monday's eclipse will cut a 70-mile-wide path of totality across the country, when the moon moves between Earth and the sun, blocking it for as much as 2 1/2 minutes. It's the first coast-to-coast full eclipse since 1918.

Here are five things to know about the Aug. 21 eclipse:

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WHAT'S A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE?

When the moon passes between Earth and the sun, and scores a bull's-eye by completely blotting out the sunlight, that's a total solar eclipse. The moon casts a shadow on our planet. Dead center is where sky gazers get the full treatment. In this case, the total eclipse will last up to 2 minutes and 40-plus seconds in places. A partial eclipse will be visible along the periphery. Clouds could always spoil the view, so eclipse watchers need to be ready to split for somewhere with clear skies, if necessary.

WHAT'S THE ECLIPSE'S PATH?

The path of totality will begin near Lincoln City, Oregon, as the lunar shadow makes its way into the U.S. This path will be 60 to 70 miles wide (97 to 113 kilometers); the closer to the center, the longer the darkness. Totality will cross from Oregon into Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and, finally, South Carolina. It will also pass over tiny slivers of Montana and Iowa. The eclipse will last longest near Carbondale, Illinois: two minutes and 44 seconds. The biggest cities in the path include Nashville; Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina; Salem, Oregon; Casper, Wyoming; and just partially within, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.



WHAT WILL HAPPEN DURING THE ECLIPSE?

They say mom was right: You can damage your eyes staring at the sun, even the slimmest sliver of it. So it's time to rustle up special eclipse eyewear to use Aug. 21. Seconds are enough for retinal sunburn. And unlike with the skin, you can't feel it. The damage can be temporary or permanent. Meanwhile, some animals may react strangely to the celestial phenomenon. Rick Schwartz, an animal behavior expert with the San Diego Zoo, said there have been observations of animals going to sleep during total solar eclipses. Additionally, during a total solar eclipse, the lunar shadow darkens the sky, causing temperatures to drop while bright stars and planets will appear at a time that is normally broad daylight.



KSTP Reporter Kirsten Swanson and Chief Meteorologist Dave Dahl answer some of the questions viewers have about Monday's eclipse.


WHAT WERE THE LAST TOTAL ECLIPSES IN THE U.S.?

Hawaii experienced a total solar eclipse in 1991. But the U.S. mainland hasn't seen a total solar eclipse since 1979, when it swooped across Oregon, Washington state, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota, then into Canada. Before that, in 1970, a total solar eclipse skirted the Atlantic coastline from Florida to Virginia. Totality — or total darkness — exceeded three minutes in 1970, longer than the one coming up. The country's last total solar eclipse stretching from coast to coast, on June 8, 1918 , came in over Oregon and Washington, and made a beeline for Florida.

WHEN'S THE NEXT ONE?

If you miss the Aug. 21 eclipse — or get bitten by the eclipse bug — you'll have to wait seven years to see another one in the continental U.S. The very next total solar eclipse will be in 2019 , but you'll have to be below the equator for a glimpse. We're talking the South Pacific, and Chile and Argentina. It's pretty much the same in 2020. For the U.S., the next total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024 . The line of totality will cross from Texas, up through the Midwest, almost directly over Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, New York, up over New England and out over Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.

WATCH two hours of live coverage of the eclipse, starting at 12 p.m. Monday, here.


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RELATED: 5 Solar Eclipse Viewing Events in the Twin Cities

RELATED: Sun Country Flight Allows Passengers to View Eclipse in Path of Totality



On August 21, North America will experience a solar eclipse. A thin path across the U.S. will be treated to the first coast-to-coast total eclipse in nearly a century. Watch the explainer video above, via the Associated Press.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Credits

Rebecca Omastiak

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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