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The Great American Eclipse Set For August 21
Updated August 3, 2017 6:21 AM
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(UNDATED) - On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will travel across the United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.

This is the first time a total solar eclipse has gone from one American coast to the other since 1918. It will also be the first time in U.S. history that a total solar eclipse will make landfall exclusively on U.S. soil, meaning it will not be visible from any other country.

For that reason, some are calling this upcoming celestial event the "Great American Eclipse."

Mike Kentrianakis witnessed his first solar eclipse at 14. He's been chasing them ever since. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between Earth and the sun, blocking our view of the sun. If you are standing in the moon's shadow on Earth, you will see the sky darken and feel the temperature drop. The place where the sun should be will look like a black circle in the sky. You will be able to view the sun's atmosphere, called the corona -- a halo of exceedingly hot gas that's invisible under normal circumstances.

The dark shadow of the moon -- the umbra -- will first touch the Earth's surface far out over the North Pacific Ocean, nearly 1,000 miles south of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, at 9:48 a.m. local time. For 27 minutes, the umbra will sweep rapidly to the east over the ocean.

Finally, the umbra will arrive along the coast of Oregon at 10:15 a.m. local time.

From there, the moon's shadow is going to race from coast to coast across the United States. That's a distance of almost 2,500 miles, from Oregon to South Carolina,and it will take the umbra just 94 minutes to travel that distance.

That works out to nearly 27 miles per minute (43 km/minute), or about 1,600 mph (2,574 km/h) -- about three times faster than a commercial jetliner.

That's why, along the path of totality, the sun will appear completely covered for no more than 160 seconds.

The eclipse will not cross Indiana, but it will in parts of Illinois and Kentucky.


The shadow will cross through the southwest part of the Bluegrass State between 1:22 and 1:30 p.m. local time (CDT). About 590,000 people live inside the zone of total eclipse, but what makes Kentucky so special is that a spot between the towns of Princeton and Hopkinsville -- along Cerulean Hopkinsville Road (Route 624) and just to the east of the intersection with J Stewart Cemetery Road -- is where astronomers predict that the point of "greatest eclipse" will occur. That's where the axis of the moon's dark shadow cone passes closest to the Earth's center. Here, totality will last 2 minutes and 40.1 seconds, beginning at 1:24 p.m. CDT. That's about 40 seconds longer than the Kentucky Derby! Meanwhile, about 45 miles to the west, the city of Paducah will experience 2 minutes and 20 seconds of totality, starting at 1:22 p.m. CDT. Five minutes later, Bowling Green will watch the sun wink out for 1 minute and 27 seconds. It is too bad that Kentucky's largest city, Louisville, lies outside of the path of totality. It will see 95.8 percent of the sun eclipsed at 2:27 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.


Most of the Prairie State lies outside the eclipse path, but its far southern end lies within the band of total darkness where, from 1:18 to 1:24 p.m. local time (CDT), about 665,000 people will be treated to the big show in the sky. The city of Cairo is practically in the eclipse track, lying only a few miles south of the edge of the moon's dark shadow, so it's possible for viewers to walk into totality! Just head north on Sycamore Street (which is also U.S. Route 51/Ohio River Scenic Byway) until you arrive in Future City, which is just inside the southern edge of totality. Keep heading north and the length of the total eclipse will gradually increase.

The city of Carbondale is near the middle of the eclipse path and at 1:20 p.m. local time will see the sun go out for 2 minutes and 37 seconds. About 15 miles east of Carbondale is Marion, where the darkness in daytime will last for 2 minutes and 27 seconds.

Not far to the south of Carbondale is Giant City State Park, a place of breathtaking natural beauty and a sure delight for visitors of all ages. From camping and horseback riding to fishing and rappelling, it's an outdoor lover's paradise, and best of all, it is right in the middle of the path of totality and just a stone's throw from the Blue Sky Vineyard. At 1:20 p.m. local time, the total eclipse will begin and last for 2 minutes and 40.2 seconds, which is the longest duration of totality for this eclipse.

For more information on the eclipse visit

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