Total solar eclipse—the astronomical event of a lifetime

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Total solar eclipse of Oct. 24, 1995, as seen from Dundlod, India. (Credit: Fred Espenak/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)
Amy Sayle, Morehead Planetarium
Science Center
The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century happens July 22. For up to 6 minutes and 39 seconds, the Moon will cover the Sun, plunging a fraction of the Earth’s surface into daytime darkness.

You will miss experiencing this eclipse in person, unless your summer travel plans are much more exciting than mine, or you’re following this blog from certain places in Asia. However, you can watch it on the Web. In Eastern time, the eclipse is TONIGHT, Tuesday, July 21; totality is 9:33-9:38 p.m.

If you live in the United States and want the Moon to sweep its shadow over you without your having to travel out of the country, mark your calendar for August 21, 2017. A total solar eclipse will be visible from a strip that reaches from the Southeast to the Northwest U.S., including a bit of western North Carolina. Online maps show the exact path.

Witnessing a total solar eclipse in person is the astronomical event of a lifetime—because of the awesomeness of the experience and because it’s rare for any given spot on Earth (occurring in a particular place only once every 360 years).

Although we can’t show you a solar eclipse, at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s next skywatching session you can view Saturn, the Moon, and other celestial wonders. We’ll be at Ebenezer Church Recreation Area at Jordan Lake this Saturday, July 25, from 9 to 11 p.m, weather permitting.

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