The 'Great American Eclipse' is a year from today

Got eclipse fever? You're going to need to wait a bit.

The biggest and best solar eclipse in American history arrives a year from today, and plans for celebrations, parties and festivities are already well underway.

Organizers of the Oregon SolarFest are calling it "a rare, mind-blowing cosmic experience," while Nashville promises visitors "a once-in-a-lifetime celestial event."

On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast, according to NASA. It will be the first total eclipse visible only in the USA since the country was founded in 1776.

It will also be the first total solar eclipse to sweep across the entire country in 99 years, NASA says. And not since 1970 has there been an opportunity to see a total solar eclipse in such easily accessible and widespread areas of the nation.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon gets in the way of the sun, turning day to an eerie twilight. Barring pesky clouds, more Americans should be able to see this one than ever before as it passes through 12 states.

The eclipse will start on the West Coast in Oregon and trace a 67-mile wide path east across the country, finally exiting the East Coast in South Carolina. At any given location, the total eclipse will last for around 2 or 3 minutes.

It will pass directly over cities such as Salem, Ore., Idaho Falls, Lincoln, Neb., Kansas City, Nashville, and Columbia and Charleston, S.C. Places within a one- or two-hour drive of the eclipse include Portland, Ore., Boise, Cheyenne, Rapid City, Omaha, Neb., Topeka, St. Louis, Louisville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Atlanta and Charlotte.

An estimated 12 million people live within the path of totality, according to Space.com. The number of people within just one day's drive of the totality zone is around 200 million.

Outside the narrow shadow track, a partial eclipse will be visible from all of North America, parts of South America, western Europe and Africa, according to eclipse expert Fred Espenak.

Nashville, the largest city directly in the eclipse path, is gearing up with special programs and activities. The city's convention and visitors bureau launched a slick website devoted to the eclipse, which they're calling the "Music City Solar Eclipse."

The SolarFest in Oregon is a four-day event, even though the total eclipse will be less than three minutes.

In Idaho Falls, the local astronomical society has fielded calls from Scotland, Germany and Japan about ideal eclipse viewing locations and lodging in the area, according to the Post Register newspaper.

And in Columbia, S.C., the city is expecting and preparing for visitors to come to the region due to its unique location in the path and "to celebrate and witness the spectacle of totality," said Merritt McNeely of the South Carolina State Museum.

Many smaller towns across the eclipse's path are also planning celebrations.

Folks who miss this eclipse won't have to wait too long for the next one: A total solar eclipse will be visible across portions of the southern and eastern U.S. on April 8, 2024.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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