Where’s the best place to see the solar eclipse that’s swiftly approaching on August 21? Everyone in the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, will be able to see at least a partial solar eclipse.
But if you want to see the stunning “ring of fire,” you’ll need to find a spot in the path of totality. The ring of fire — also called a corona — appears as the moon covers the sun, leaving a blazing outer circle of light. This spectacular 2012 photo from the U.S. Airforce in the Pacific shows a solar eclipse with a ring of fire over the Yokota Air Base in Japan.
NASA’s Total Eclipse page reports the solar eclipse will begin darkening U.S. skies in Madras, Oregon at 9:05 a.m. PDT, move south east through South Carolina, and leave the East Coast at 4:06 p.m EDT. If that seems like a short time window to you, you’re right. According to Space Coast Daily, the eclipse will travel at breathtaking speeds of nearly 3,000 miles per hour in Oregon to a more sedate 1,500 miles per hour when it reaches South Carolina.
So why do people care about finding the best place to see the solar eclipse? For starters, this is the first one we’ve had in 99 years that has crossed the entire continental United States.
As Astrophysicist Summer Ash from NBC’s Space is Awesome explains in the video below, “This eclipse is the best chance in almost a century for most Americans to get to look at one from their own backyard.”
A partial solar eclipse is a marvelous thing to behold, but only those along the path of totality will experience a total solar eclipse. In other words, if you want the best place to see the solar eclipse, you may need to travel. As Space.com explains, this narrow path is only about 70 miles wide. NASA’s 2017 solar eclipse site provides an interactive path of totality map that lets you zoom in and click for specific locations and times. The screen shot below provides an overview.
As NASA’s path of totality map above shows, those who live in the following cities and areas nearby are in luck: Salem, Oregon; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; Grand Island, Nebraska; St. Louis, Missouri, and Kansas City (though both are on the outer edges of the path); Nashville, Tennessee; and Charleston, South Carolina. Twelve million people already live within the path of totality, according to NBC. Millions more live within driving distance, so for many of you, it’s still not too late to make plans.
If you plan ahead or live within driving distance, the best place to see the solar eclipse by far may be a national wildlife refuge. The Spokesman Review reports 19 of these beautiful federal parks just happen to be within the path of totality and are prepared to welcome skywatchers. These U.S. wildlife refuges have set up public parking and viewing areas and are open from dawn to dusk. For just the cost of getting there and a very reasonable fee, you can enjoy the solar eclipse in a pristine natural setting with no light pollution or tall buildings to obstruct your view.
Here’s a handy map of the national wildlife refuges taking visitors on the day of the 2017 solar eclipse. Make sure to check ahead, some of these parks have only limited space for people and their vehicles.
So once you’re in the path of totality, is there an even better place to watch the solar eclipse? Time says there is, and it’s in Goreville, Illinois. What makes Goreville the best place to watch? The town’s 1,067 residents and visitors will get to watch for over two and a half minutes. That’s a long time by solar eclipse standards, and the duration lasts longer than anywhere else in the U.S.
Goreville seems to be a lucky place this summer. Last week, a man was driving through and saw a double rainbow overhead.
— Shawn Priddy (@infernome2) August 5, 2017
Found your best place to see the solar eclipse? Protect your eyes.
Once you’ve found the best place to see the solar eclipse, you’ll need to protect your eyes. Whether you’re watching through binoculars, a camera or cell phone camera, or even dark sun glasses, you’ll need to special solar filters when watching a total eclipse.
Here’s a video on how to safely watch a total solar eclipse from the American Astronomy Society.
If you live outside the path of totality and can’t get away, that’s okay, too. The best place to see the solar eclipse may very well be near the comforts of home. Even if you don’t get to see the “ring of fire,” a partial eclipse is still an amazing thing to see. For example, the photo below was taken in Minnesota back in 2012.
[Featured Image by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images]