On August 21, 2017, the United States will experience a rare continent-wide total solar eclipse. Sure, the last total solar eclipse to occur in the United States was 26 years ago, but a continent-wide total solar eclipse exclusively in the United States hasn’t happened since 1778.
According to NASA, an estimated 500 million people across North America will be able to observe this rare celestial event. But to experience the eclipse in its full glory, scientists recommend being in the “path of totality” – a 70-mile wide path stretching across 14 states from Oregon to South Carolina. It is within the “path of totality” where the moon will completely block out the sun, making the corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, visible.
To see if you’re in the total solar eclipse sweet spot, take a look at NASA’s Total Solar Eclipse Interactive Map. Otherwise, here are some stargazing spots that are worth the road trip.
Capitol Building - Salem, Ore. — Photo courtesy of Sheila Sund
Observe the solar eclipse in the town where astronomer and eclipse chaser Jay Pasachoff has decided to set up his telescope. In his career, Pasachoff has observed 63 eclipses and is considered one of the leading experts on solar eclipses. He has selected to conduct his study at Salem’s Williamette University. Because the skies are often clear in Salem during the month of August, Williamette University will host the largest gathering of solar scientists.
Time of total eclipse: 10:17 a.m. PDT
Duration of total eclipse: 1 minute 54 seconds
Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley, Idaho — Photo courtesy of ArtBrom
Outdoor lovers of Idaho will also have the chance to catch the solar eclipse around the Sun Valley area. A viewing party will be hosted on Festival Meadows, but for outdoor adventurers, a quick hike, bike, or ride up Bald Mountain will give you an unobstructed view.
Time of total eclipse: 11:29 a.m. MDT
Duration of total eclipse: 1 minute 13 seconds
Lost River Valley, west of Mackay, Idaho, A. Hedrick, BLM — Photo courtesy of BLMIdaho
The probability of clear weather in Mackay makes this town a great place to view the eclipse. The city of Mackay has also been deemed an Official NASA Viewing Site. Those who enjoy camping can pitch a tent at Mackay’s Eclipse Campout on August 17 and enjoy events, including a mobile planetarium and other programming, leading up to the solar eclipse on the 21st.
Time of total eclipse: 11:33 a.m. MDT
Duration of total eclipse: 2 minute 13 seconds
Jackson, Wyo. - Grand Tetons
Grand Teton National Park — Photo courtesy of Kae Lani Kennedy
If the Grand Tetons weren’t already stunning, imagine those rocky mountain peaks framing a total solar eclipse! The center-line of the eclipse will pass right over the Tetons resulting in an eclipse that will last for 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Park rangers will be available at viewing areas to answer any questions curious eclipse viewers may have.
Time of total eclipse: 11:35 a.m. MDT
Duration of total eclipse: 2 minutes 20 seconds
Jesse Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia — Photo courtesy of Adam Procter
The “Show-Me” state will live up to its motto as the center-line will be passing right over Columbia. The main viewing event will take place in the appropriately named Cosmo Park where food and festivities will accompany one of nature’s greatest light shows!
Time of total eclipse: 1:12 p.m. CDT
Duration of total eclipse: 2 minutes 37 seconds
Makanda, Ill. — Photo courtesy of David Wilson
According to NASA, witnessing a total solar eclipse where you live only happens about once in 375 years. For the 547 residents of Makanda, they’ll experience this rare phenomenon twice in a period of 7 years! Makanda is in the crosshairs of both the 2017 total eclipse and the upcoming 2024 total eclipse.
Time of total eclipse: 1:21 p.m. CDT
Duration of total eclipse: 2 minutes 40 seconds
Kelly Little Green Men Days Festival — Photo courtesy of Kelly Little Green Men Days Festival
Talk about perfect timing! On August 21, 1955 there was an alleged landing of a UFO in Kelly, Kentucky, and to commemorate the event, the town hosts The Little Green Men Days Festival. The festival begins this year on August 18 with concerts, art exhibitions, costume contests and food, and ends on the 21st with the total solar eclipse.
Kelly and Hopkinsville (just five miles up the road) are considered to be the best spots to catch the eclipse because the Sun, the Moon and the Earth will be lined up in this location the most precisely.
Time of total eclipse: 1:24 p.m. CDT
Duration of total eclipse: 2 minutes 40 seconds
Nashville — Photo courtesy of dconvertini
Nashville will be the largest city in America to go dark. Raise a glass to the solar eclipse at City Winery’s eclipse viewing party or enjoy some live performances from Grammy nominated musicians, poets and notable speakers at Hadley Park.
Time of total eclipse: 1:27 p.m. CDT
Duration of total eclipse: 1 minute 56 seconds
Downtown Greenville — Photo courtesy of TimothyJ
Greenville is an excellent place to visit any time of year. It was listed in the New York Time’s Top 52 Places to go in 2017 and is one of the fastest growing cities according to the Census Bureau. Really, the total solar eclipse is just the cherry on top of an already outstanding destination.
There will be plenty viewing areas around the city including Falls Park on the Reedy, which offers 32-acres of nature trails and scenic views. Another prime location to catch the eclipse will be Roper Mountain, an Official NASA Viewing Site and home of the Daniel Observatory which is home to North America’s 8th largest refractor telescope.
Time of total eclipse: 2:38 p.m. EDT
Duration of total eclipse: 2 minutes 10 seconds
Charleston, S.C. — Photo courtesy of Jeff Turner
The last place in the United States to see the total solar eclipse will be Charleston. Visitors to the Holy City will have a rare view of the eclipse over the harbor as the eclipse begins its journey across the Atlantic Ocean. To get a great view, we recommend joining the Astrology Club near the Aquarium, the Official NASA Viewing Site at the Citadel Mall or catch the eclipse during the Charleston River Dogs baseball game.
Time of total eclipse: 2:47 p.m. EDT
Duration of total eclipse: 2 minutes 4 seconds