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In This Place

Still Time to Make Your Plans for This Year's Total Solar Eclipse

David Byrne

This August, the United States is going to see a total solar eclipse. It's a rare event, and if you haven’t already finalized your summer plans, you may want to put yourself in a place to witness it.

"It's very rare, the way it's going to be happening this summer," according to Dr. Regina Jorgenson, Director of Astronomy at the Maria Mitchell Observatory on Nantucket. "The path is actually going to travel across the entire continental US."

The eclipse happens on August 21st.

The path of totality—which sees the total eclipse, as opposed to a partial eclipse—is about seventy miles wide. It will start in Oregon and travel east to South Carolina. 

"In order to see the totality you need to be actually in that 70-mile wide strip that goes all the way from the west coast, down through the center of the US, and then out along the east coast," Dr. Jorgenson said. "So if you want to see totality, the advice is to travel somewhere along that path."

Here in the Cape Cod region, we'll be seeing a roughly 70% partial eclipse, which should take a little less than three hours from start to finish.   

Dr. Jorgenson said she'll be traveling to Oregon to observe the eclipse. Why there, with all of that continent-stretching path to choose from?

That's the best guess for clear weather on August 21st, she said. "If you look back over the last twenty or thirty years, the least likely place to have cloud cover on that day is actually in Oregon."

The Maria Mitchell Observatory will be hosting a special program that day, including live streams from observatories across the country and viewing opportunities for the public using solar viewers.

Dr. Jorgenson cautions that, even with a partial eclipse, people should never look directly at the sun. If you don't have proper solar glasses, she advises to observe the eclipse indirectly.  

"For example, one great way to do it is to find a tree. If you stand under the tree, it turns out that the leaves will act sort of like a cheap pinhole camera. The projection of the sun on the ground, coming through the leaves, will look like the eclipse."