Mark your calendars for a once in a lifetime opportunity.
On August 21, 2017, the moon will pass between the earth and the sun for the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since 1918. From Oregon to South Carolina, millions of Americans in 12 states will be able to watch this solar spectacle that will turn day to night for a couple of minutes, depending on where you are.
Nearly everyone in the U.S. will be within a day’s drive of the path of the total eclipse.
A key factor in getting a good view of the eclipse is the weather. The western part of the U.S. always has the best chance for clear skies, but hopefully you’ll get lucky wherever you are. It would be a good idea to keep an eye on the forecast in the week before the eclipse, and be flexible in your location in case weather forces you to move. Experts advise picking an area with a good highway system so you can get around quickly if needed.
PHOTOS: Best places to watch this summer's solar eclipse
Here are some of the best spots to watch (weather depending), according to the website GreatAmericanEclipse.com:
Totality begins: 10:19 PDT
Duration: 2 minutes, 4 seconds
Located just two hours from Portland and a junction of four highways, Madras promises one of the nation’s best chances for clear weather to view the eclipse along with mountain views and wide open spaces. The city has planned a SolarFest to celebrate the event and welcome folks to watch with them.
Snake River Valley, Idaho
Totality begins: 11:33 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2 minutes, 18 seconds
The Upper Snake River Valley has been named by many eclipse experts, as one of the best locations in the United States to view the eclipse, due to its high elevation, dry climate and propensity for clear skies.
Info on events and places to stay can be found here.
Totality begins: 11:42 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2 minutes, 26 seconds
With an altitude over 5,000 feet, high probability of clear skies, and uncrowded highways traveling in each direction, Casper will be a prime spot for eclipse viewing. The area also offers lots of choices for both mountain top or valley views. The city is planning a number of special events and activities that can be found here.
Sandhills of western Nebraska
Totality beings: 11:49 a.m. MDT
Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
In twenty years of research, weather observers say the Sandhills country of Nebraska has had good eclipse-viewing weather on 70% of late August days. The city of Alliance is a good choice with accommodations, long duration of totality, three highways for distance traveling, and many farm roads to dodge local clouds. They are planning an entire weekend of events for people who come to watch the eclipse.
St. Joseph, Missouri
Totality begins: 1:06 p.m. CDT
Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds
St. Joseph will enjoy one of the longest durations of any sizable city in the nation. A large eclipse viewing party is being organized at the Rosecrans Memorial Airport with educational speakers, solar telescopes, and more.
Totality begins: 1:20 p.m. CDT
Duration: 2 minutes, 41.6 seconds
The point of longest eclipse for 2017 is just southeast of Carbondale at the geographic location of 37º 34’ 4.3” North latitude, 89º 06’ 10.0” West longitude. This is where NASA will set up their cameras to live stream the eclipse. If you want to experience the very longest eclipse duration, you can’t go wrong at any spot on the centerline of eclipse near Carbondale.
Totality: 1:24 p.m. CDT
Duration of totality: 2 minutes, 41.2 seconds
The city claims it’s “the best spot in the nation for the eclipse” and officials are planning a number of events around the experience to coincide with their Little Green Men festival, so a huge crowd is expected. If that doesn’t appeal, check out this website for tips on places to view the eclipse in the Bluegrass State.
Totality begins: 1:27 p.m. CDT
Duration: 1 minute, 57 seconds
Nashville is the largest U.S. city completely within the path of the total solar eclipse, though it’s still 20 miles from the centerline. This website offers a number of locations and tips for viewing locations in and around Music City. You could use it as a home base and travel just a few miles to the north or east to get a longer view.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee & North Carolina)
Totality begins: 2:35 p.m. EDT
Duration: 1 minute, 17 seconds
If the weather cooperates, the Great Smoky Mountains will offer great views for the eclipse. The entire western half of the park will fall under the path of totality for the eclipse. The park has already sold out tickets to access Clingman’s Dome, which will offer expansive views, but they are planning several other opportunities for people to watch in other areas of the park. You can get that information here. The mountains will provide the possibility of seeing the moon’s shadow racing across the landscape, a dramatic sight that will add another dimension to your experience of the eclipse.
Columbia, South Carolina
Totality begins: 2:43 p.m. EDT
Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
For millions on the east coast, Columbia is a great option with a long duration of totality plus a fine network of highways for mobility on eclipse day. The city has an entire long weekend of activities planned for the eclipse, and you can get details here.