The U.S. has won a celestial jackpot, but only those in the Path of Totality will get a payout
This total solar eclipse will divide the US into haves and have-nots
On August 21, the U.S. will win a celestial jackpot. Are you going to cash-in your lottery ticket?
“The eclipse? What was all the fuss about?”. That’s exactly what most Americans will say about the much-hyped events of Monday, August 21 when the Moon slips precisely across the Sun’s disk and causes a eclipse right across the country. They may think they have seen it––and dismissed it as dull––but those people will not have seen the first total solar eclipse to cross mainland U.S. for 99 years. Most of America will see only a partial eclipse, which are … not very interesting.
Sorry, but it’s true. Watching a partial eclipse of the Sun is the kind of thing astronomers do. The average person on the street is not going to get excited watching the whole thing through solar eclipse glasses.
How to get the Eclipse Jackpot
Get the Path of Totality and everything changes. If you stand within this 70 mile-wide area that goes through a portion of 12 U.S. States–– Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina––you get to see something utterly unforgettable, possibly even life-changing.
You get to see the Sun’s corona. Only in the Path of Totality will it go dark, get cold, and only in the Path of Totality will you se a ‘hole in the sky‘ and glimpse the ice-white, shimmering atmosphere of the Sun’s hottest layer. Yup, the Sun is actually white, not yellow. It’s crisp, not hazy and diffuse. Only in the Path of Totality will you then see a beautiful ‘diamond ring‘ around the Moon at the end of the precious few minutes of this totality.
You see none of this if you’re in New York City where 71% of the Sun will be eclipsed. But you also see none of it if you’re standing a few miles away from the edge of the Path of Totality and watching a 99% eclipsed Sun. Totality will be elusive from both those places.
On August 21, the U.S. has a ball-game, and it’s not the eclipse; it’s totality. If you’re not in the path, you’re not in the game.
Photo credit: NASA