Solar Eclipse Q & A’s
What is a total solar eclipse?
A total solar eclipse refers to the sun being completely covered by the moon during the day. During this time, the sky momentarily darkens, temperatures fall, and daytime becomes nighttime. Total solar eclipses are rare: Any particular location on earth only sees a total solar eclipse about once every 300 years. The path on the Earth within which the total solar eclipse is visible is called the path of totality. On August 21, 2017, the path of totality over land will stretch from Oregon to South Carolina.
What's happening August 21, 2017?
A total solar eclipse will be visible from the United States. The path on the Earth within which the total solar eclipse is visible is called the path of totality. On August 21, 2017, the path of totality over land will stretch from Oregon to South Carolina. At 10:15 AM on that day, the eclipse will first become visible on the Oregon coast near Depoe Bay.
Where should I go to see the eclipse?
In order to experience the total solar eclipse, you’ll need to be within the path of totality (see map). Observers below or above the path of totality will see only a partial eclipse, meaning that the sun is only partly blocked out and the sky never gets dark. Oregon’s largest cities—Portland and Eugene—are not within the path of totality.
How long will the eclipse last?
The total solar eclipse will last slightly less than two minutes, depending on your exact location.
How can I safely observe the eclipse?
The eclipse can be safely viewed using special light-blocking glasses known as eclipse glasses. Regular sunglasses aren’t sufficient! Only during totality—when the sun is completely covered by the moon—can you look at the sun safely without eclipse glasses. You can also observe the eclipse by projecting an image of the sun using a pinhole camera.
Why isn’t a total solar eclipse seen every month when the moon passes between the sun and the earth?
The sun, moon, and earth have to be precisely aligned for a total solar eclipse to be visible, and this arrangement does not occur every month.
When will the next total solar eclipse be visible in the United States?
You’ll have to wait until 2024, but that eclipse won’t be visible in the Pacific Northwest
Where should I go to see the eclipse?
There is no sure perfect place to watch the eclipse—nobody knows with certainty what the weather will be! However, if you want to experience the total solar eclipse, you must be somewhere along the path of totality, which is a band approximately 50 miles wide that will arc across Oregon.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry will be hosting an Eclipse Viewing Event at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, Oregon, within the path of totality. Many thousands of people will be expected, and many RCA members will be assisting OMSI at the Fairgrounds. Please note that tickets are required for this event.
Oregon State Parks camping reservations may still be open.
Advice to eclipse viewers
- Plan and prepare!
- Aside from all the Oregonians that will want to see the eclipse, many thousands of eclipse viewers will be arriving from out of state (residents in California and Washington, for example, will not see a total solar eclipse—they will have to come to Oregon to do so) and even internationally.
- Decide months in advance where you will be and how you will get there!
- Don’t plan on driving anywhere early the morning of August 21 into the path of totality—freeways, streets, and roads will likely be a total bottleneck!
Scientific projects related to the eclipse
Toby Dittrich, a member of the Rose City Astronomers, is developing “A Project to Refine Arthur Eddington’s 1919 Solar Eclipse Observations.”
The Citizen Continental-America Telescopic Eclipse (CATE) Experiment is a citizen science project to observe the eclipse.