The solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 is being dubbed the Great American Eclipse. (Naturally. Everything has to have a snazzy catch-phrase these days, right?)
However, to be fair, this is a pretty significant astronomical event for the United States. It deserves some hoopla.
Are you ready for it? Or are you trying to figure out what all the fuss is about?
I have a confession. I could’ve cared less about the solar eclipse a week ago. Yes, past tense. After doing some research, I’m excited about it now.
If you’re not excited about it, read on. Maybe you can benefit from my research and I can get you excited about it too.
Total Solar Eclipses Common, But Also Rare
According to this Space.com article, total eclipses are actually common. On average, a total eclipse of the sun happens somewhere on Earth once every 18 months.
So why all the hype for this one?
Well, because of orbital factors, solar eclipses don’t happen in the same spot all the time. That’s what makes viewing one rare.
Why August 21, 2017’s Eclipse Is Special for the U.S.
The last time a total eclipse was visible from a U.S. city was in 1991 on the Big Island of Hawaii. That doesn’t seem so long ago, right?
But the last time a total eclipse was visible from any of the Lower 48 states was 1979. That’s 38 years ago.
Or as Wikipedia put it:
The August 2017 eclipse will be the first with a path of totality crossing the US’s Pacific coast and Atlantic coast since 1918. Also, its path of totality makes landfall exclusively within the United States, making it the first such eclipse since the country’s independence in 1776. (The path of totality of the eclipse of June 13, 1257, was the last to make landfall exclusively on lands currently part of the US.)
In other words, it’s been 99 years since we’ve had a coast-to-coast total eclipse here in the States, and 241 years since there’s been one exclusively in the U.S., which was 519 years after the last one.
Or, to put it yet another way, this will only be the third time in 760 years the U.S. has seen this kind of event.
As I’ve established above, total solar eclipses in the U.S. are rare.
But if you still need more stats for just how rare, here’s some interesting facts about a few of the cities where totality will happen:
- According to the Kansas City Star, the last time Kansas City got close to a total eclipse was 1806. The next time they’ll see it won’t be until 2205. (It’s not smack in the middle of the eclipse’s path, but within the totality swath. Nearby St. Joseph, however, is.)
- In an effort to emphasize the rarity of the event, Nebraska’s Grand Island Convention & Visitors Bureau listed Nebraska’s history of them. The last one Grand Isle had was in 1194. They won’t see another until 2744.
- Nashville’s CVB also listed similar info. Their last total solar eclipse was 1478. The next one won’t occur until 2566.
So, yeah. That’s why this one has earned the moniker the Great American Eclipse. For many, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a total eclipse of the sun.
Where will you be for the eclipse? Are you in or near a place that will experience totality?