Come August 21, the Great American Eclipse will be visible from certain parts of the United States. People all over the country are looking forward to this celestial phenomenon as the last time such an eclipse was visible in America was as far back as in 1918. According to the Great Amercian Eclipse Website, This is truly a great American eclipse because totality will sweep the nation from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Nearly everyone in the US can reach this total solar eclipse within one day's drive."

So, it goes without saying that most will not want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to get a glimpse of the eclipse.

However, before you dust off your telescopes and goggles, you should keep a few things in mind.

The celestial event

Contact Times are very important and there are four of them during a total eclipse. These are known as namely C1, C2, C3, and C4. The first contact time or C1 starts just when the moon’s shadow touches the sun and marks the beginning of the eclipse.

The next phase, that is C2, occurs when the sun is totally obscured by the moon’s shadow. Just as the moon’s shadow starts to move further and the sun comes into view again, the C3 stage commences. Finally, when the last bit of the lunar shadow leaves the sun and the eclipse ends, it is C4.

Why are contact times so important?

It is important to know contact times because some occurrences during a total solar eclipse only happen during a certain stage.

Therefore, if one knows the contact time, they will not miss out on the event. For instance, the popular Diamond Ring Effect will only be visible after the commencement of the C2 stage. To keep a track of all the contact times one can use a Solar Eclipse Timer, which uses GPS technology to give exact information regarding the times.

Some lucky people may also get a glimpse of an event known as “Bailey’s Beads,” which takes place just after the diamond ring effect. Shadow bands are another phenomenon which may be experienced during the eclipse. There is no assurance that you will get to see these though, as they do not occur during every total solar eclipse and even when they do, they can only be seen from certain places.

If people do get to see the shadow bands effect, they will be able to view shadows cast on the ground. These shadows resemble snakes slithering away. Scientists are unaware what exactly causes this effect, but it is nonetheless fun to watch. This effect generally takes place either right before C2 or right after C3. If you keep these tips in mind, then you could very well enjoy the celestial event more than most.

The dangers of watching the eclipse are real.

There are some things you need to know because staring at the sun could hurt your eyes. During the full blackout it is safe to look at the eclipse but at any other stage, real damage could occur. Only proper solar filters from a reputable outlet should be used. Home-made filters such as exposed film and even sunglasses are not going to protect your eyes from damage.