Sure, Monday’s solar eclipse is going to be cool…but with celestial phenomena like this shrouded in mystery for millennia, here are a few facts you can file away and bring up to look smart on Monday.
1. This is the first U.S. coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1918.
No, eclipses don’t happen every day. In fact, the last solar eclipse seen from the U.S. was in 1979. But if you want know when the last time one was visible from one end of the nation to the other, you’ve got to go back a full 99 years to 1918. And if you want to get even more arcane with your U.S. eclipse trivia, Monday’s big show is the first solar eclipse only visible in the United States since before the U.S. was the U.S. in 1776. So yeah…this is pretty rare, indeed.
2. The conditions to produce a solar eclipse only happen every 18 months.
You already know the moon zips between the Earth and its sun once a month. Usually, the tilt of that crazy moon’s orbit keeps it out of the path for directly blocking any of the sun’s rays. However, during the new Moon phase every 18 months, the moon lines up just right between the sun and Earth, creating the conditions for an eclipse effect. Of course, the moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun, but being about 400 times closer to the Earth, the tiny orbiter appears just the same size as the giant star.
SOLAR ECLIPSE 2017
3. Glasses or no, you have safe methods for watching the eclipse.
Of course, you can’t look directly at the sun anytime, including during the eclipse. But with proper UV-protective glasses, you can view the event safely. Of course, those glasses have been selling like hotcakes for weeks, so if you don’t have the proper eyeware, we’ve got a few safe alternatives for you.
4. The eclipse comes to many Americans in different ways in different times.
For those of us here in Las Vegas, here’s the bad news — we won’t see the full solar eclipse. Our view, which starts around 9:09 a.m., will be a partial (yet still, pretty cool) eclipse covering about 72% of the sun’s light. That maximum block-out will probably come around 10:27 a.m. before the moon continues on its path out of the sun’s way until it’s over around 11:52 a.m. As for the Americans with a full eclipse in store, that accounts for about 12 million people residents (and an untold number of tourists) in a nearly 70-mile wide swath between Oregon and South Carolina.
In all, about 500 million people in the US, Canada, Mexico, parts of South America and even north-western Europe will see at least some effects of the eclipse.
5. Your darkness may vary.
Even for those in the full path of the total eclipse, the time of complete darkness depends on a few factors. For those on the furthest edges of the eclipse’s path, they may only see a few seconds of darkness. Those closer to the center of the path will get more. The apparent winner of 2017 Solar Eclipse Sweepstakes is Carbondale, Illinois — population 26,000 — where residents will get the longest stretch of total sustained blackness: about 2 minutes and 41 seconds worth. Of course, if your area is impacted by local weather issues, like clouds, none of it matters — you may be out of luck anyway.
6. Actually…everyone gets to see the eclipse.
Sure, we all want to see the eclipse with our own two eyes, but let’s be real — this is what TV was created for. In addition to expected wall-to-wall television news coverage between 9 and noon Pacific time, those brainiacs at NASA are all over this eclipse thing. They’re live-streaming the eclipse on every platform conceivable, including their own website, Facebook, Periscope, Twitch, UStream, NASA TV and the NASA YouTube channel. If you want to take in a truly unique perspective on the event, the folks at the Eclipse Ballooning Project, a collective of high schools, colleges and universities as well as NASA scientists, are putting 57 cameras on weather balloons so we can all check out the eclipse from a super high altitude. Cool…
But your friends at CBS Las Vegas have you covered as well…all you need is the live stream right here. You’re welcome.
7. Eclipses make animals go…a little wiggy.
While we won’t see a “Planet of the Apes” style uprising (probably), the solar eclipse messes with our fellow species in the animal kingdom pretty hard. The unexpected shift of light and temperature and a very unnatural time throws many animals serious head-scratching mode…and they’ve been known to respond understandably bewildered. In the path of total darkness, insects like crickets may start chirping while birds like owls could call while others settle in to roost. Studies found some varieties of fish swam in irregular patterns with often nocturnal fish even starting to come to the surface during the eclipse.
However, it’s important to note that most of this squirrelly animal behavior has been noted anecdotally, so it’s tough to know exactly how any particular critter will react come showtime. Most house cats and dogs have been known to take eclipses, even total eclipses in stride, although some exhibited signs of fear.
8. If you want another U.S. total eclipse…it’s gonna be a while.
As we pointed out, solar eclipse conditions happen about every 18 months, so mark your calendars now for July 2019. That’s when a solar eclipse is expected to roll over areas of the South Pacific, Chile and Argentina. But Americans are a “bring it to me” kinda people…so the next time Americans will get to see a total eclipse like this on U.S. won’t happen again until April 8, 2024. And even then, those of us in Las Vegas and the rest of the west U.S. won’t be satisfied. That 2024 eclipse will only swing from Texas up into Maine.