The Greatest Solar Eclipse in a Century is Coming to the US in August

eclipse 2017, aerial view of solar eclipse, solar eclipse above the clouds

Whether or not you fancy yourself an astronomy nerd, a truly incredible event will sweep the United States this August. Americans will witness the greatest solar eclipse of the last hundred years. Here’s why it’s so special, how you can safely view it, and a few of the best places to see it for yourself.

What Is It?

On average, solar eclipses happen a handful of times every year. But, total solar eclipses — when the moon completely blocks out the sun — occur only every 18 months or so. The so-called “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” (the folks at NASA evidently prefer to spend time on more important things like searching for aliens than on hip marketing buzzwords) will cross the United States on Monday, August 21, 2017. For just a few minutes on that date, the sun will pass behind the moon, creating a beautiful “twilight” effect with large streaks of light dancing in silhouette around the moon. It will be the first total solar eclipse in the history of the country to pass solely over the continental U.S.

How Long Will the Eclipse Last?

The eclipse’s timing depends on where you are in relation to the “path of totality.” For anyone at the center of the path, the best case scenario is that it will last a scant 2 minutes and 40 seconds. For those standing near the edges of the path, it may only be observable for a few seconds.

What Do I Need to View the Eclipse?

Solar viewing glasses are available from a handful of manufacturers, including American Paper Optics (Bill Nye approved!), Rainbow Symphony, and Thousand Oaks Optical. These purpose-built specs allow the viewer to stare directly at the sun right before and after the event without going blind.

Where Can I See the Solar Eclipse?

Only those within the path of totality will see the full eclipse. The 70-mile-wide path connects South Carolina to Oregon, including North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho. Check out NASA’s interactive eclipse map which reveals the best locations for viewing the phenomenon.

Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park is hands-down the best place in the country to witness the once-in-a-lifetime event. The park’s remote location provides plenty of solitude from throngs of tourists. The destination is also located dead center in the path of totality. A few tour providers and rural lodges near Jackson Hole are celebrating with eclipse-inspired promotions, including:

  • Wildlife Expeditions of Teton Science Schools announced single-day packages starting at $2,100 USD (for a group of 7; accommodations not included). All-inclusive multi-day packages — including rafting trips, hiking expeditions, and a visit to the National Museum of Wildlife Art — are available starting around $3,000.
  • Moose Head Ranch is the last privately owned guest lodge within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park. In addition to its prime location, guests can enjoy wildlife expeditions on horseback, sprawling meadows of alpine wildflowers, and, with little light pollution, some of the best stargazing in the country. The property is hosting a special eclipse event with a lecture by astronomer Dr. Bill Blair.
  • Heart Six Dude Ranch is just steps from GTNP. As a working dude ranch, it offers guests hands-on rancher activities, horseback riding, floating the Snake River, and daily tours into Yellowstone National Park.