Where will you be when the total solar eclipse is visible from the continental United States on August 21? If you’re debating between different spots, a handy “eclipse simulator” will help you forecast the degree of the eclipse that will be seen in a particular location.
(A word of warning – follow NASA’s safety tips before doing any eclipse observations with your eyes, binoculars, or a telescope. Never look directly at the sun without protective equipment.)
Solar eclipses – from Earth’s perspective, at least – occur when the moon passes in between the sun and the Earth. If the moon covers only a part of the sun, it’s called a “partial” solar eclipse and if it covers the entire sun, it is a “total” solar eclipse.
A total eclipse is by far the most spectacular experience. The sky grows dark, the corona (or sun’s atmosphere) peeks out from around the moon, and sometimes singing birds fall quiet because they think that nighttime has suddenly arrived. But only a very narrow band of cities along a path that cuts diagonally through the United States will experience totality. The moon’s shadow is small, so you have to be in just the right spot.
RELATED: NASA's Method of Tracing the Great American Solar Eclipse, Explained
That’s where the eclipse simulator on the Eclipse Megamovie 2017 website comes in. Say you’re in Oregon deliberating between different locations. Type in “Portland” and press play, and you’ll see that the doesn’t quite obscure all of the sun’s disc. If you want to see totality, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
Referring to the total eclipse map for nearby cities, you’ll see that nearby Salem is in the path of totality. And if you look again on the simulator – this time typing in “Salem, Oregon” into the bar – you’re rewarded with a dark sky as the sun gets completely obscured by the moon.