On Aug. 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible to Americans from coast to coast as it passes over 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina.
It will be the first time in decades that a total solar eclipse is visible along such a long path across the U.S., according to NASA historical data. The U.S. Postal Service has even issued a new postage stamp to commemorate the event.
The moment of a total solar eclipse — when the moon blocks Earth’s view of the sun completely while exposing the sun’s corona — is unique in that it’s the only time you can gaze up at the phenomenon without damaging your eyes, NASA says. The corona then emits only electromagnetic radiation. However, if you watch the sun before the eclipse reaches totality, you will catch a glimpse of the brilliant solar surface, and this can cause retinal damage.
So if you didn’t make travel plans to see what some are referring to as “the Great American Eclipse” when we told you about it last summer, now is the time to book.
Where to catch the total solar eclipse
NASA has created a website dedicated to the eclipse, and you should be able to find key details about the event on that site.
NASA’s eclipse maps, for example, will help you figure out exactly where to watch the eclipse. I found the interactive map particularly handy in nailing down my eclipse viewing destination: Click on any location within the path of the total eclipse and details — like the exact time when the total eclipse starts and ends in that location — will pop up.
To get you started, we’ve rounded up the location in each state within the eclipse’s path (two within the state of Kentucky) where the total eclipse will be visible longest, following the path the eclipse will take from west to east:
- Lime, Oregon — Total eclipse will last 2 minutes and 9 seconds
- Driggs, Idaho — 2:18
- Glendo, Wyoming — 2:27
- Falls City, Nebraska — 2:36
- Hiawatha, Kansas — 2:34
- Marshall, Missouri — 2:38
- Makanda, Illinois — 2:40
- Cerulean, Kentucky and Hopkinsville, Kentucky — 2:40
- Gallatin, Tennessee — 2:39
- Dillard, Georgia — 2:38
- Otto Labyrinth Park, outside Franklin, North Carolina — 2:37
- Clemson, South Carolina — 2:37
This list is based on data from former NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak, an eclipse expert. His EclipseWise website is a reputable source of technical details about the Aug. 21 eclipse. Even NASA uses Espenak’s eclipse calculations.
Note that the above list excludes Iowa and Montana, which technically are in the path, but the total eclipse passes briefly over only a tiny corner of those two states, no more than a few square miles, according to Espenak.
Saving on last-minute travel costs
With so many people within a day’s drive of the path of the total eclipse, consider a road trip. It would almost certainly save you money compared with flying — probably a lot of money.
AAA reported recently that gas prices are down in nearly every state, with the national average gas price at $2.26 per gallon on July 10.
For cheat sheets to the perfect road trip, check out:
- “13 Essential Things to Pack for a Better Road Trip“
- “7 Car Maintenance Tips for Safe Summer Travel“
- “8 Cheap Ways to Keep Your Car Running Cool in the Summer Heat“
As for lodging, you might find that hotels are booked or overpriced in cities that lie within the path of the total eclipse. So look into vacation rentals, too.
As we recently detailed in “7 Tips to Save Hundreds on Vacation Home Rentals,” such rentals are often cheaper and more comfortable than hotel rooms anyhow. That article was written by someone who had never stayed at a vacation rental before, but after the experience the writer prefers and recommends rentals over hotels.
Do you plan to watch the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21? Let us know below or on Facebook.