SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — In less than a month, the sun will disappear from the sky for millions of Americans, during what promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.
According to NASA, for the first time in nearly 4 decades, the path crosses through the continental United States. Everyone will observe at least partial obscurity, but for a those in the path of totality, for two minutes “the sky will become twilight, the air will cool, the stars will appear, and the black disk of the moon will be surrounded by the pale streaming halo of the sun’s corona.”
It’s unsafe to look directly at a partial eclipse. One should never attempt to do so. Only during a total eclipse is it safe to look directly at the sun.
On August 21, those 120 seconds will be precious and personal. Shrouded in superstition, for many, total eclipses portended doom. They were evil omens, bringing death, destruction and disasters. The Ancient Greeks believed it was a sign from angry gods. A passage in Homer’s Odyssey reads, “The sun has perished out of heaven, and an evil mist has overspread the world”.
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But modern skygazers have taken a much more favorable view. Eclipses are exciting events. NASA has started a countdown clock until ‘first contact in Oregon’ on a website entirely devoted to the coming eclipse. There’s information on everything from planning an eclipse party to 2D and 3D printable pinhole projectors for safe viewing.
So, all Americans should mark their calendars for August 21.
But if you live in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Northeastern Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois, Western Kentucky, Tennessee, Southwestern North Carolina, Northeastern Georgia, or South Carolina — consider yourself part of an elite viewing club. What you will witness is rare and special. The last total solar eclipse that arced across the continental United States was on June 8, 1918. Anyone alive who is old enough to have seen it, is at least 100-years-old.
This will be one story, you’ll want to save for your grandkids.
CBSSF.com writer, producer Jan Mabry is also executive producer Bay Sunday, Black Renaissance and host of The Bronze Report. She lives in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @janmabr.