Mark your calendars. We're just days away from a solar eclipse — and you're not going to want to miss it. On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States all the way from Oregon to South Carolina. If you're not in the "path of totality," start planning your road trip now because it's expected to be an incredible experience for spectators. For everything you need to know about the natural phenomenon, keep on reading.
What is a solar eclipse?
First things first. For those wondering what exactly a solar eclipse is, it's when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, and the moon blocks the sun. Meaning the sun is fully obscured by the moon. Two to five eclipses occur each year, and only occur when the moon's orbit crosses the Earth's ecliptic plane. They are rare because totality only occurs on a narrow path of the Earth's surface, and in this case, it's a stretch of land 70 miles wide on the great U.S. of A.
What time is the solar eclipse?
Time will vary depending on your location. The shadow will move from west to east, which means totality will occur later in the day the farther east you are located. NASA has released a map to find out the exact time and how long it will last wherever you are along the path of totality.
When was the last solar eclipse?
The last time this happened, it was February 26, 2017, and it was visible across South America in the morning and Southern Africa at night. However, it was not a total solar eclipse but rather an annular eclipse, which is when the Moon's diameter appears smaller than the sun's, causing the sun to look like an annulus ring.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
When is the next solar eclipse?
If you can't make this month's eclipse, you're going to have to wait seven years. Yes, the next solar eclipse to be visible from America is not expected to occur until 2024. It will start over Mexico and Texas and travel up through Midwest and Northeastern America.
How to view the solar eclipse for first timers!
Don't expect to see this natural phenomenon with the naked eye. To fully enjoy the experience, Space.com recommends getting a pair of solar viewing glasses. With these shades, you can view the eclipse before, during, and after totality without any problems. And no, regular sunglasses won't work. Viewers can only look at the eclipse with the naked eye during totality. Also, be sure your binoculars or telescope are fitted with a solar filter or you can seriously damage your eyes. The more you know!
This post originally appeared on our sister site, Life & Style.