The astronomy community is abuzz about the solar eclipse that will occur on August 21, 2017. Most of North America will be able to spot a partial solar eclipse if they do their observing at the right time. Those who reside within a 65-mile-wide track that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina or do some advance planning to be within this zone on August 21 could observe a total solar eclipse that will last for up to 2 minutes 42 seconds. This is the first time that a partial or total solar eclipse will be visible across most of North America on the same day since 1918. Local astronomy clubs, schools and professional astronomers are already gearing up for this event, and so are the hospitality and travel industries. In fact, some hotels along the track that will witness a total solar eclipse are already booked to the gills and many others are boosting their prices. For this reason, the event is sometimes being called the Great North American Eclipse.
Observing the Total Eclipse
Some Tips For Observing This Eclipse
- Plan ahead. Some hotels are already raising their rates in anticipation of an upswing in travel for the Great North American Eclipse, but you might be able to score some good deals if you compare rates for air travel and lodging on sites like AirBnB, Hilton Hotels, CheapFlightsNow, Travelation, and HotelWiz. (Slight legal disclaimer: Because I earn a small percentage of sales with some of these links, I happen to know that you can get $50 off a HotelWiz booking with coupon code HWIZ50 and $50 credit for every night of a Hilton Hotels stay with coupon code RPTVS1. That’s insider stuff that I’m passing on to my fellow astronomy enthusiasts so you don’t get taken for a ride.) But seriously, don’t save your planning til the last minute if you want to get the best deals on your travel.
Have the right equipment on hand. You totally don’t want to risk the local astronomy shops being sold out when you get to your destination, and it’s going to happen when educators realize what a prime opportunity this eclipse is. The most important thing is to protect your eyes against the intense glare of the sun, and this is also true if you are going to be in the zone that sees a total solar eclipse. The corona can only be seen when the sun is completely covered, but it is also not something to underestimate. Orion Telescopes has an excellent total solar eclipse viewing guide, a five-pack of Solar Eclipse Safe Viewing Glasses that you can share with members of your astronomy club who forgot to bring eye protection, and a selection of solar filters that are compatible with Orion telescopes and binoculars. A good solar telescope can be worth the expense if you think it’s worth the extra baggage fee.
- Make sure you’re comfortable. You’re likely to be outside for quite a while during the eclipse and things can get quite uncomfortable if you’re unprepared. This is especially true if you plan on watching the eclipse with young children. Dress appropriately for the weather, take bug spray and sunscreen, take drinks and snacks, order pizza and take along some lawn chairs and a blanket.
- Contact the local astronomy club at the location you are going to be observing the solar eclipse at. The local astronomy club will usually know the best places for observing a solar eclipse, especially if you plan on extending your astronomical observing time until well after sunset. It’s also likely that they’ll be organizing an observation party for this solar eclipse.
- Organize a party with your friends. Okay, so maybe a lot of your friends think you’re a nerd for liking astronomy so much, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them out of the house for a day to go observe this event. You can make it even more fun by making a potluck out of it and sharing stories about past eclipses or various societies’ traditions about eclipses. Bonus points if you come up with some astronomy-themed games and trivia contests that everybody can play.
The most important thing is to relax and have fun while observing the solar eclipse, and especially do it in a way that won’t burn out your eyes. The Great American Solar Eclipse is on August 21st, so you still have time to plan. Just don’t procrastinate, because top destinations for observing the total eclipse is going to be booked fast.