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Published on August 9th, 2017 | by Brittain Thompson


Guide to Viewing the Solar Eclipse on August 21

On August 21 a solar eclipse will occur throughout a portion of North America. A solar eclipse is, in the simplest terms, when the moon’s orbit places it in front of the sun and blocks most of the light. Where you are watching from will dictate how much of the eclipse you can see. Only those in a certain path across the country will be able to see the totality, when the moon completely blocks out the sun. From Oxford you will see the moon cover roughly 91% of the sun. If that’s not enough and you want to experience the complete coverage of a totality, then you’ll need to pack some bags and head north.

The closest place to catch the 100% eclipse is Tennessee. From Clarksville down to the Smoky Mountain National Park area you can catch the totality for durations varying from one minute to almost three minutes. The duration varies based on how close you are to the center of its path. When choosing your viewing location the two largest factors to consider are going to be traffic from others wanting to catch the totality as well as the weather forecast. Having a spot on the highest peak won’t help if there’s full cloud coverage all day. Chances are you won’t be able to find a patch of land completely void of clouds, so aim for a location you have some options to move around in.

Eclipse enthusiasts have been planning their trips well in advance, so lodging might be difficult to come by near the totality. Traffic as well is predicted to be bumper to bumper the day of, so traveling ahead of time is highly recommended to help cut down on the time spent on the road and reduce the chance of having to watch the totality from a highway.

You’ve picked a spot and you’re ready to view the moon cover up the sun, so there’s just one very important detail left: not blinding yourself. There are a couple different methods to view an eclipse without destroying your vision. The first and most recommended is using special glasses designed to protect your eyes while staring at the sun. Most any of the solar shades you find should work as long as they are compliant with 12312-2 international safety standards. You can also use the pinhole projector method which involves poking a hole in a piece of cardboard with a thumbtack, then holding then holding the board above your head with your back to the sun. You can aim the pinhole projector at a flat surface. Now you’re basically watching the eclipse and not losing any vision.

If you’re out of luck and can’t catch this eclipse, the next one is just seven years away in 2024 and will be over Arkansas. Then, in 2045, the totality of a solar eclipse will be directly over North Mississippi, so if you’re still around you’ll be in for a treat.

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About the Author

Brittain is an associate editor of The Local Voice, ex-journalism student, and bad noise maker from the highway town of Brandon, MS.

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