The Great American Eclipse

Aug 20, 2017 By Rachel Kenney
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Up to 7.4 million Americans are expected to show up to view this incredible event on August 21st, 2017...

No, we’re not talking about the Superbowl or a highly anticipated new movie. We’re talking about the Solar Eclipse.

The last total solar eclipse that was visible over such a great portion of the United States occurred in the early 1900s, however solar eclipses themselves are a slightly more common event. In 2009, a solar eclipse occurred that lasted just over six minutes.

The Science Behind the Eclipse

Chances are, you’ve heard the phrase, solar eclipse, but you might be less familiar with the actual science behind the word.

The Earth moves in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, and the Moon does the same around the Earth. Every now and then, the three come together in a straight line -- that is the moon gets between Earth and the Sun, and casts a shadow over Earth. To those living on Earth where the moon's shadow is cast, the Sun will appear dark and day will turn into night. This phenomenon is known as a solar eclipse. The moon may partially or fully block the sun from Earth’s view -- called a total or partial eclipse. 

Centuries ago, people saw the eclipse as a bad omen. They thought the darkening of the sky meant that the Gods were mad at them, and they held rituals to “bring back the sun.” Little did they know that an eclipse is a natural phenomenon.

Nighttime Already?

Although humans now know the cause of the eclipse, this rare event still throws off nature in many ways. As the sun hides behind the moon earlier than usual, many animals exhibit nocturnal habits; birds roost, preparing to go to bed; shrimp (which come to the top of the water at night) swim up from the bottom of bodies of water; bats emerge to begin their “nighttime” hunt.

Other animals have exhibited strange behaviors as well. Squirrels retreat to their nests. Spiders, which re-weave their webs every night, tear down their webs to start new ones. Mosquitoes arrive in huge swarms.

There is still much that is unknown about how animals behave during an eclipse. During the 2017 eclipse, many zoos and wild animal parks are participating in studies to monitor and observe their animals to gather more information.

Viewing the Eclipse

The really exciting thing about this particular eclipse is that it can be viewed across the entire United States. Hence, the name “The Great American Eclipse.” There are prime viewing spots all the way from Oregon to South Carolina.

Although exact times will vary, you can view the eclipse no matter where you live! Just don’t forget to take precautions and wear eclipse glasses. If you wear these special glasses, you can look directly at the sun and see the partial stages of the eclipse, until the sun is completely blocked by the moon.

Make sure not to miss this opportunity to see this amazing feat of nature...the next solar eclipse like this may not occur for another hundred years!