America is counting down to one of the rarest celestial events to occur in decades, the Great American Total Eclipse of the Sun which will stun those in the path of totality on the afternoon of August 21. The excitement is rapidly escalating as the days count down towards the event. Thousands are making plans to witness for themselves what it feels like when the moon appears to block the sun. Some events have been years in the making. The event is so rare families have spent months planning their vacations around the three-minute spectacle, knowing it won’t happen like this again in their lifetime. Eclipses happen from time to time, but one that stretches across the contiguous United States is rare; the next won’t occur again until 2045.
The technology that will be used to observe, study and share the experience is vastly different from what was used in early recorded history. C.A. Young wrote of using a spectroscope to view an eclipse in Burlington, Iowa in 1869. Then we only had a few instruments to measure the atmospheric conditions. Now we have everything from drones to a manned space station.
Preparing to view the eclipse means first and foremost, buying or creating something to protect your eyes from the harmful UVA and UVB rays. Watching full sun for even a brief moment is painful and can lead to eye damage. With a little research, you should be able to find the proper devices to wear. Regular sunglasses are not one of them. Viewing the eclipse from a National Park like the Great Smokey Mountain in North Carolina is recommended. Outfitting yourself requires planning and likely purchasing the proper gear if you don’t already own it. You can shop Groupon and secure codes for goods from Patagonia, a premier maker of outdoor gear. They make sleeping bags, backpacks, apparel and shoes to take up in the mountains where it’s fresh and clear and right in the path of totality. And of course, while you’re there, you can plan on hiking, lake fishing and rock climbing and other outdoor activities you family can enjoy as a prelude to the big eclipse and for days afterward.
On average, there is some total eclipse every 18 months but they must be viewed from different parts of the world to appreciate them. For now, get yourself within the path of totality if you want to enjoy the Great American Total Solar Eclipse this year. Or wait 28 years for the next one.