Everyone’s talking about the “Great American Total Solar Eclipse” coming Monday, but here is what you need to know.
A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the earth and the sun. The disk of the moon appears to completely cover the disk of the sun, making the sky virtually dark for about two and a half minutes.
“The eclipsed sun looks, in fact, like a hole punched in the sky,” said E.C. Krupp of the Griffith Observatory. “What is normally a blindingly bright disk is utterly black and crowned with a pearly halo against a dark sky.”
Krupp said that if someone is unsure that they have seen a total solar eclipse, then they haven’t, because it’s an unmistakable, magical experience one wouldn’t forget.
“It brings people to tears,” Rick Fienberg, a spokesman for the American Astronomical Society, told Space.com of the experience. “It makes people’s jaws drop.”
The path of totality for the solar eclipse runs about 70 miles wide and stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. It passes through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina.
“In a total eclipse, eyewitnesses are awed, exhilarated and inspired,” Krupp said. “For only a few minutes, everything is suddenly, theatrically and seemingly irrevocably transformed.”
Though the D.C. region is outside the path of totality, experts said the moon will cover roughly 80 percent of the sun in the area at the eclipse’s peak (between 2:35 p.m. and 2:50 p.m. EST) — which should still make for quite a spectacle.
Experts warn that while the eclipse offers a beautiful sight, watchers should never look at a partial solar eclipse without proper eye protection. Looking directly at the sun, even when it is partially covered by the moon, can cause serious eye damage or blindness.
Additionally, Starheal, a North Carolina-astrologer, said ancient astrologers considered it a bad omen to actually watch an eclipse with your own eyes.
The last time the solar eclipse was visible in the U.S. was 1979, and the last time it made an appearance from coast to coast, as expected on Monday, was June 8, 1918.
Many astrologers agree that eclipses are associated with personal endings, rebirth, sudden, shocking news and fated events.
Those who miss this total eclipse won’t have to wait another century to witness it again, however — another will occur in 2024 and will be visible from Mexico and Canada.
“Those who have not actually been immersed in totality have a hard time understanding what all of the fuss is about,” Krupp said. “It is, however, the most remarkable event ever delivered by the sky. Only the aurora, a close second, comes near totality in impact on the eye and on the heart.”