For three years I’ve been talking about this eclipse. August 21st, 2017 is a date that feels etched into my skull. With solar eclipses being few and far between, and usually occuring far from my home in Canada, I’m excited that the great american eclipse of 2017 will be within my budget for travel. Though like many people, I’m ready to pay a bit extra to get to the right spot.
The eclipse is expected to draw over 100 million people to the many towns and cities along the path of totality. Though most of the population of North America will be able to see part of the eclipse from where they live. Lasting around 2 and a half minutes on average, totality is limited to a thin, 120 Km-wide band that crosses the continental United States from Oregon to South Carolina.
I’ll be staying in Jackson, Wyoming, sleeping in a rental car, and doing my best to photograph the eclipse with the gear I have. I didn’t get a hotel room for lack of trying, rather my booking was cancelled thanks to the hotel closing forever. Bad luck – but sleeping in a car is a small price to pay to see a total eclipse, and at least I had my deposit refunded. I consider it a way to save money since lodging prices are about 3x as expensive as they normally would be at this time of year.
After close observations of the Moon and it’s path, NASA’a Goddard Space Flight Centre released a great video showing the shape of the umbral shadow:
This kind of accuracy is due to elevation maps of the Moon itself from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), and detailed topology of the Earth from NASA. Technology has come a long way since the math used to predict eclipse paths was developed by astronomers Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel and William Chauvenetin the 19th century.
With the new technology available to photograph, observe, and track the eclipse, more people can enjoy the event than at any time in history. It’s going to be a good one – weather permitting…