Solar Eclipse 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

On August 21, 2017 there will be a total eclipse of the sun traversing the middle of the United States.  The last time a total eclipse crossed the entire continental U.S. was in June 8, 1918. A total eclipse touched part of the continent in February, 1979. If you miss the 2017 eclipse, you will have to wait until 2024 for the next total eclipse over North America.



photo credit: Luc Viatour /


A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun in a path that positions the moon right in front of the sun. The moon, sun, and Earth are directly aligned.  The moon passes between the Earth and the sun on every lunar cycle (28 days); this is   the “New moon.” But, because the moon’s orbit is offset from the Earth’s orbit around the sun by 5 degrees, the shadow cast by the moon does not always reach the Earth.


Depending on the orbit of the moon (its distance from the Earth and its path), an eclipse is categorized as total, annular, or partial. In a total eclipse, like the one next August, the entire sun will be obscured by the moon. An annular eclipse occurs when the moon passes directly between the Earth and sun, but is too far away to completely cover the sun. And, a partial eclipse happens when the moon only blocks a part of the sun. Partial eclipses are the most common.

Eclipses generally happen a few times each year, but they are often only visible over the ocean or in remote places. The duration of a total eclipse is short, therefore, the true total eclipse is only viewable over a small section of the Earth each time it happens. However, you can still view part of the eclipse from the areas to the right and left of the sun’s path across the Earth.

The path of the August 21, 2017 eclipse will span the US, west to east, from the Oregon Coast to the Carolinas.  The time from start to finish will be less than 2 hours and totality will only last approximately 2 minutes, 41.7 seconds.  The map above shows the path across the state of Oregon.  The first place to view the eclipse will be on the Oregon Coast just south of Lincoln City.  One will have a greater chance of viewing the eclipse under clear skies on the east side of the Cascade mountains.