The Great American Total Solar Eclipse

The Great American Total Solar Eclipse 

Get ready for an amazing event in the August sky.

By Steve Kates

Get ready for an amazing experience The Great American Total Solar Eclipse is coming to the skies near you on Aug. 21. Here in Arizona, however, we get to see a deep partial solar eclipse.

Not since 1979 has a total solar eclipse been visible in the continental United States and this is a big event for fans of the sky. Twelve major states will get to experience the wonders of totality, as day turns into night. You must be within a very narrow band of real estate to experience this grand vision of nature.

Arizona will experience a very deep and potentially dangerous partial eclipse of the sun.

With clear skies, observers will notice the first ‘bite’ taken out of the sun by the moon at 9:13 a.m. MST. At best, some 70 percent of the sun covered by the moon will occur near 10:33 a.m. MST. The eclipse will end for us at noon MST. The duration of this deep partial eclipse will be some two hours and 46 minutes.

I’ll be setting up camp in Rexburg, Idaho, in a 70-mile-wide path, where the eclipse will be total and totality will last some 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Learn more about this eclipse at

If that wasn’t enough excitement, here our some addition August sky tidbits. The moon will begin August as a gibbous moon and move on to the full sturgeon moon on August 7 at 11:11 a.m. MST. A partial lunar eclipse of some 25 percent will take place for observers in Europe. The moon reaches its last quarter phase on the 14th, with the next new moon setting us up for the total solar eclipse on the 21st.

Many planets are in our August skies too. Look high in the southwestern sky at dusk for Jupiter. Saturn will be low in the south at sunset and easy to see with the naked eye. Meanwhile, Venus in low in the east at sunrise.

The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak on the morning of the 13th. Look high in the northeastern sky from midnight till dawn. A bright moon will cut down the number of meteors seen.

September skies bring us the end of the traditional monsoon and a change of seasons. The

Autumnal Equinox arrives on the 22nd at 1:02 p.m. MST and hopefully will be a sign of cooler weather on the way.

The moon begins September as a gibbous moon, moving on to the great full corn moon on the 6th. Last quarter moon on the 13th and the new moon occurring on the 20th. The moon then waxes and appears low in the west at sunset by the 23rd, with another first quarter moon on the 27th.

Mercury is visible low in the east at sunrise on the 12th with Jupiter and Saturn in the southwestern sky at sunset. Venus is still low in the east at dawn. Venus and Jupiter will have a great conjunction in the morning sky on Nov. 13th, so get set for that.

One final note: if you miss the August solar eclipse, either the partial or the total event, you need to start planning for the next big total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024. This rare

eclipse will begin in Mexico and travel over Texas to other northern states. I plan on

being in Dallas, Texas, as the eclipse passes right over downtown Dallas, at that sacred location, known as Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was assassinated back in 1963. The sun turning to darkness in the middle of the day will be most surreal, with over 4 minutes of totality.

Facts about The All American Total Solar Eclipse, Aug. 21, 2017

  • The United States hasn’t had an eclipse of this type since 1979.
  • The next one will occur on April 8, 2024.
  • Arizona will only experience a deep partial eclipse at 70 percent.
  • Some 12 states will be in the path of totality.
  • The path of totality is only 70 miles wide, at best.
  • Totality will last some 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
  • Make sure you protect your eyes during this event.

Protect Your Eyes 

NASA offers tips on how to view a solar event safely.

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” or hand-held solar viewers, according to NASA. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun. To date four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.

  • Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
  • If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the Moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.

An alternative method for safe viewing of the partially eclipsed sun is pinhole projection. For example, cross the outstretched, slightly open fingers of one hand over the outstretched, slightly open fingers of the other. With your back to the sun, look at your hands’ shadow on the ground. The little spaces between your fingers will project a grid of small images on the ground, showing the sun as a crescent during the partial phases of the eclipse.

A solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the view and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime. For more info, visit

*Information obtained via

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