I’m travelling this week, which has screwed up my schedule, a little.  No worries, there’s not much new in the sky this week, unless you caught the Lyrids shower (I didn’t – rain, thunderstorms).

Today marks 120 days until the upcoming solar eclipse, and I’m starting to pay more attention to it.  You should be too.  Why?  Total solar eclipses – the kind where the Moon completely blocks the sun, so perfectly that only the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, is visible – are rare.  When they do happen, they occur in a very narrow path, and odds being what they are on a blue planet, most of the time totality happens out at sea, or at least very far from home.

This year, August 21, the Moon will cast its shadow across the continental US, and almost every US resident in the Lower 48 will have a reasonable chance to see roughly 2 minutes, 20 seconds (give or take) of totality.

The shadow will make landfall in the Pacific Northwest, south of Portland, Oregon, near Salem. It will move east, arcing south across Idaho, and Wyoming (passing south of Yellowstone, but over Grand Teton).  It will continue southeast across the central plains of Nebraska, glancing the northeast corner of Kansas, through Missouri and Kentucky, then across the southwestern Smokies and the ends of Tennessee and North Carolina.  The shadow clips northern Georgia as it bisects South Carolina and heads out to sea just north of Charleston.

Totality will be at its maximum duration in the center of the country – Paducah, KY is the place to be if you want a few extra seconds.

Outside the totality window, which is roughly 70 miles wide, a partial eclipse will grace most of the country.  But given the coast-to-coast traverse, it’s worth a little effort to find the centerline and get there. There are even apps (of course) that will use your GPS position to guide you towards centerline in real time.  (Though in good conscience, I can’t recommend one – I have a hard time with charging money to activate a GPS feed on your device.)

My concern is weather.  I can’t imagine anything more frustrating/disappointing than making plans to camp out in the path, only to get rained out with no visible sun.  For this reason, Wyoming and Idaho are looking to be popular spots for viewing, though thunderstorms in August could ruin anybody’s day.

I plan (at this point, things might change) to spend the weekend in North Carolina, and then make a T-minus 2 days or so decision to head toward Charleston, or out to the Smokies.  Either way, I’m likely to be anxious and holding my breath – first hoping I can outsmart the weather, and second with the excitement of seeing an extremely rare event.

Have you made your plans yet?  Let me know!

Get Out There!



6 thoughts on “Astronomy Weekly : Solar Eclipse Planning

  1. I just wrote about the eclipse this morning. I’ve been pessimistic that I’d be able to go, so haven’t made any plans yet. Things have opened up enough that it looks like, at least, the timing will be okay. The hard part, which I’m going to keep working on, is the accommodations. I suspect most everywhere within a couple hours’ drive of the totality track is already booked. We’ll see, I guess. Gotta start somewhere. I hope you have an amazing time.


  2. I’m having a tough time deciding what I want to do. Part of my problem is that the 2020 eclipse will be almost right on top of me, so I feel as much of a sense of urgency about catching this one.


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