The Great American Eclipse: What is a total eclipse and how can you see one?

We might see bits of the eclipse here!

There’s going to be a massive solar eclipse in America this week! That’s when the Moon moves between the Sun and the Earth and blocks some of the Sun’s light.

Solar eclipses happen quite often but this one is special because it’s a complete eclipse and it falls on land.

Full solar eclipses, when the moon positions itself between the sun and the Earth, happen every few years but often in remote areas or over the ocean.

In the words of some event organisers, it’s a really beautiful sight!

On August 21, 2017, millions of people across the United States will see nature’s most wondrous spectacle — a total eclipse of the Sun. It is a scene of unimaginable beauty; the Moon completely blocks the Sun, daytime becomes a deep twilight, and the Sun’s corona shimmers in the darkened sky.

This will last for a little less than three minutes but in order to see it properly, you need to be in the right place.

The ‘viewing zone’ of the total eclipse is only about 70 miles wide. That’s the big black line on the map below and it’s called the ‘Path of Totality’!

The last time the US witnessed an eclipse like this was in 1979!

This one is being called the Great American Eclipse 2017 and the next time it will happen will be 2024.

Unless you’re in the path of totality, everyone else, including here in the UK, will see a partial eclipse. It’s less exciting but still pretty cool!

If you want to watch the partial solar eclipse in the UK, you must make sure you do it safely:

  • First of all, never look directly at the Sun: you can damage your eyes forever!
  • Even the amount of Sun peeking out from behind the Moon during an eclipse is enough to make you go blind, so you must never look at it directly

You can buy special glasses to look at the Sun for brief moments through. Pinhole cameras also work well!

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Don’t be sad if you don’t have these things. NASA will be broadcasting the whole thing on the internet and on telly.

Plus, astronauts aboard the International Space Station will beam pictures back to Earth, as will ships and planes and high altitude balloons!

The next full solar eclipse in the UK will be September 23, 2090…

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