February 26, 1979 was the last Total Solar Eclipse that was visible across the United States. An astronomical event like no other is happening today, August 21, 2017 - and is visible across the contiguous United States. Though the total visibility line crosses through the middle of the country, partial visibility is accessible to almost everyone in the U.S. If you aren’t already planning a road trip, or won’t have access to visibility, NASA is also broadcasting a livestream, available worldwide!
But, before you go out and get your protective glasses, or make your viewing box... what is a solar eclipse anyway? A solar eclipse occurs when in orbit, the moon located directly between the Earth and the Sun, blocking the light of the sun - at this time, only lasting for a few minutes or so, it will become dark at the maximum viewing point as the Moon casts a shadow onto the Earth. The first shadow, called the Umbra, is what causes the darkness to set onto the Earth - if standing in this shadow (only a small portion of the Earth), the total eclipse is visible. Those standing in the second shadow, the penumbra, will see the partial eclipse.
Today’s Solar Eclipse will begin in Salem, OR at 9:05 am PDT, and culminate its last sequence of visibility in Charleston, SC at 1:15 pm EDT. Across North America however, the solar eclipse will be able to be partially seen under the penumbra in corresponding locations. Just like you were told when you were younger, regardless if you listened or not, the solar eclipse is not something to be cherished with the naked eye. Just as you shouldn’t stare directly into the sun with wide open eyes, the same goes for the solar eclipse.However, because you’ll experience a dark period, it’ll give your pupils time to dilate to let as much light into the eye as possible. When the sun creeps back out from behind the moon, your eyes will be that much more sensitive to light. Either find protective glasses nearby, or kick it oldschool, and make your own viewing box.
The ready access we have to such phenomenal natural wonders is astounding, and I urge you to take hold of that. Though there will be multiple solar eclipses in your lifetime, the availability, option, and access to view one partially or totally may not always be there. Seeing the scientific wonders of how our planet turns, universe spins, and the solar system seems to run seamlessly and endlessly is at our fingertips - so get out there, watch the eclipse, and gawk like a little kid at how cool it is.
Jorgie Ingram is a seventeen-year-old artist, activist, writer, dancer, and choreographer, currently living in New Hampshire. Finishing her high school studies online as a senior, she looks forward to continuing her studies in college, majoring in dance. Jorgie's passion is to inspire - whether that be through her artistry, writing, or everyday interactions. She loves to give back, and aspires to do so throughout her life. Apart from dancing all over New England, choreographing for the stage and film, painting, writing, baking vegan goodies, and spending time outdoors with her family and friends, Jorgie is the founder of local environmental group, Kearsarge Changing Climate Change, and one of the lead organizers for NH for Humanity's performance art events.