The Great American Eclipse will see the sun, moon and earth become perfectly aligned
Eclipses have both fascinated and terrified civilisations for centuries, prior to scientific progression and explanatory theories, people believed it was a sign that the world was ending.
On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will witness an eclipse of the sun for the first time in 99 years, where the Moon will pass in front of the Sun casting darkness across swathes of the Earth’s surface.
Dubbed the Great American Eclipse, the moment will see the Sun, the Moon and the Earth become perfectly aligned in a once-in-a-lifetime celestial spectacle seen from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
Although we won’t see a perfect alignment in the UK, we will be able to see a partial eclipse (where the moon covers only a part of the sun).
Nasa will host an Eclipse Megacast for four hours during the eclipse, which will be picked up by international TV stations.
Who will see it?
Everyone in North America, parts of South America, Africa and Europe – including the UK – will see at least a partial solar eclipse, where the moon covers only a part of the sun.
However, 14 states across the United States will experience a total solar eclipse with more than two minutes of darkness descending in the middle of the day over the course of 100 minutes.
More than 12 million Americans live inside the path of totality and more than half of the nation live within 400 miles of it. Millions more are expected to travel to cities along the path to witness the phenomenon.
What causes an eclipse?
The diameter of the Sun is 400 times that of the Moon but it lies 400 times further away – which means if you are in exactly the right alignment on the surface of the Earth at the right time, you will see the two celestial bodies overlap exactly.
Where can I see the eclipse in the UK?
Sadly Brits won’t get a total eclipse like our friends across the pond, but we will be treated to a slight partial eclipse which will still be worth watching.
It will be visible in parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from around 19:35 on August 21 – but make sure you’re in a spot where there’s no cloud.
What areas will see total blackout?
Anyone within the path of totality will see the sky become dark for several minutes as the moon completely covers the sun. The path is relatively thin, around 70 miles wide, and stretches from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.
It will first be seen at Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 9:05 PDT, with totality beginning at 10:16 PDT.
Over the next 90 minutes, it will cross through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and end near Charleston, South Carolina at 14:28 EDT.
The lunar shadow will leave the US at 04:09 EDT.
Its longest duration will be near Carbondale, Illinois, where the sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds.
How can I see it safely?
Never look directly at the Sun, even through sunglasses or dark material such as a bin liner or photographic negative.
Makeshift filters may not screen out the harmful infrared radiation that can burn the retina of the eye risking permanent eye damage and blindness.
Also, viewers must never use binoculars or a telescope.
Wear special eclipse viewing glasses – not ordinary sunglasses – or construct a simple pinhole camera which projects an image of the Sun onto a blank piece of paper.
When will Britain next see a solar eclipse?
There was a pretty spectacular eclipse in Britain in March 2015, but the last total eclipse in the UK was in August 1999.
You might be waiting a while for the next decent one too – it won’t take place until 12th August, 2026. On that date up to 95 per cent of the Sun will be obscured.
Britain will not see a total solar eclipse until 23rd September, 2090.