The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

Marc Bilodeau/ September 3, 2017/ Miscellaneous

I like anything about space and astronomy. Stargazing, telescopes, comets, and meteor showers always pique my interest. Although I’ve seen a lot of the night sky, the one event that I’ve been waiting to experience is a total solar eclipse.

The last total solar eclipse within the United States was in 1979. Needless to say, the chances to see such a sight are rare. As a complex and scientifically calculated trajectory would have it, my first real opportunity to experience a solar eclipse occurred on August 21, 2017. However, as a resident of Maine only 60% of the sun would be covered by the moon. That simply wouldn’t do. I must experience the real deal, the totality, the night during the day!

Planning a Solar Eclipse Trip

During the August 2017 solar eclipse, there were 12 million people living within the path of totality. Additionally, it was estimated that millions of people traveled to see the totality first-hand. I’ve learned a thing or two about traveling for both business and pleasure. However when an event like this occurs, there are a few nuances that are key for planning a successful trip.

Where is the Solar Eclipse?

Depending on the path of totality, there may be a few to a plethora of locations to visit. Whether the purpose is to just see the eclipse or stay a few extra days can all affect the destination one chooses. Thanks to math and science, several maps are available for upcoming solar eclipses that show the paths of totality. These maps are helpful when choosing an ideal spot to observe the solar eclipse.

Plan air travel, hotel, and car in advance

An eclipse brings a large number of people to a finite amount of space. Also, several towns and cities along the totality sometimes plan different types of events and gatherings. Airfare Reservations should be made within the prime booking window. If the eclipse occurs internationally, it’s important to have all the proper visas and paperwork complete prior to departure.

Be prepared to pay extra for Eclipse Rates at hotels within the direct path of the totality. By staying outside the totality and driving into it, one can potentially save several hundreds of dollars a night on hotel rates. I highly recommend making any hotel and car reservations at least 6 months in advance. I waited until three months prior to the eclipse, and finding a hotel was a challenge.

Purchase Eclipse Glasses

It’s common knowledge that one needs special glasses or viewers to observe the sun and moon during its transition. There are many types of viewers thanks to the innovations and ambitions of capitalism. However, not all viewers are equal. It’s important to make sure they are safe and meet ISO standards.

An Element of Luck

No matter how well you plan, the weather is one element that can’t be controlled. However, you can attempt to defy luck with data. I chose a location that historically has a high probability of clear and sunny days in August. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and it was cloudy in St. Joseph, Missouri.

What is the big deal about a Solar Eclipse?

There is nothing like experiencing the totality yourself. Although the sky was cloudy in St. Joseph, the experience was still amazing and surreal. The sun peaked out a few times when the moon began to cover the sun. Then, the clouds came in and covered the overhead sky. However, the light was still noticeably dimming as totality approached.

When the totality occurred just pass 1 PM local time, it became dark as a brightly moonlit night in the matter of a few seconds. The air cooled and the wind was calm. The horizon in every direction looked like civil twilight. Time seemed to slow to a crawl during the entire two minutes and thirty seconds of totality.

The trip was a success and even with the clouds it was still amazing. It only fuels my excitement to see the next total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. This time, the totality is less than a two hour drive. In fact, from my home the sun will be 96% covered by the moon. But I won’t stay home. I’ll travel to see the totality, and this time hopefully the clouds will stay away.

Conclusion

A solar eclipse is a rare phenomenon as it may be years to decades between occurrences. No matter how many people explain what happens during the eclipse, nothing compares to being there when the totality occurs.

However, plan well in advance and hope for good weather. Don’t spend the whole time taking picture, as it’s important to be mindful and experience the eclipse during its totality. There aren’t many that occur in a human’s lifetime. If the opportunity arises to see one, I suggest taking it.