US to witness rare solar eclipse; NASA to broadcast live video, astronauts aboard ISS to capture images

22 June 2017, 03:29 PM
US to witness rare solar eclipse for first time in a century (File photo)
US to witness rare solar eclipse for first time in a century (File photo)

Americans are gearing up to witness a rare coast-to-coast solar eclipse that will be viewed from the United States for the first time in a century. Millions of Americans will be able to observe the rare celestial event but with caution. This will be first of its kind since 1918.

The solar eclipse will take place on August 21 when the moon will pass between the Sun and the Earth. The process will cast a dark shadow, making the sun’s normally obscured atmosphere or solar corona, stars and the planets visible.

The moon’s 70-mile wide shadow will be visible from Oregon in the west to South Carolina in the east. It will last over the course of more than two daylight hours, with two minutes of darkness and will engulf 14 states.

Martin Knopp of the Department of Transportation said that almost 12 million Americans live within this strip, while some two-thirds of the nation’s population reside within a day’s car ride.

International visitors are expected to descend for the event as only US will experience the total eclipse.

Images will be captured by NASA aircraft, spacecraft and more than 50 high-altitude balloons and astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

“Never before will a celestial event be viewed by so many and explored from so many vantage points—from space, from the air, and from the ground,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Since 1979, a total eclipse has not covered regions of the contiguous US. Another total eclipse will take place in 2024 that will cover the regions from Texas to Maine.

NASA will be broadcasting the live video of the cosmic event. Watch parties could be held in parks, libraries and stadiums nationwide.

Rick Fienberg, a spokesman for the American Astronomical Society said the continental US outside of the total eclipse strip will experience a partial solar eclipse.

NASA has strongly cautioned against directly looking at the solar eclipse with the naked eye at the sun outside of the total eclipse window.

US space agency said the only way to see the partially eclipsed sun is by using eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers, ordinary sunglasses are not enough.

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Fienberg said even a 99 per cent partial eclipse is not nearly as awe-provoking as the total eclipse event. “It’s literally the difference between day and night,” he said.

“Going through life without ever experiencing ‘totality’ is like going through life without ever falling in love.”

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First Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 03:22 PM

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