For the first time since 1918, all of America will witness an eclipse that will cast its shadow to both edges of the United States. The great American eclipse will be one of the most historical events in the astronomical history of the decade. Get to know the basics of an eclipse before the big event.

All American Solar Eclipse and how it got its name

Around every 18 months, the Earth, Moon, and the Sun align. On its orbit around Earth, the Moon passes directly between our planet and the Sun.

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The Moon’s orbit does not belong to the same orbits of Earth and the Sun, hence, being perfectly aligned with them is a rare occurrence. Upon this alignment, the Moon covers the disc of the sun, and those places on Earth that get caught by the Moon’s shadow will see the Sun go dark in the phenomenon called an eclipse.

Our moon may be 400 times smaller than the Sun, but it is also 400 times closer to Earth. Hence, they appear at about the same sight in the Earth’s skies. On an interview with The Verge, Noah Petro, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center says that the Moon’s distance from Earth allows it to cover the Sun's disc perfectly.

Eclipses are varied. During a total Solar Eclipse, the Moon’s shadow perfectly covers the Sun. In a partial eclipse, the Moon only covers a portion of the Sun. And since the orbit of our Moon is not perfectly circular, there are times that the Moon passes in between the Sun and Earth at a slightly farther distance. An annular eclipse occurs where the Moon appears to be smaller than the Sun, and its shadow could not fully cover the edges of the Sun, forming a “ring of fire.” Hybrid eclipses where an annular eclipse changes into a total eclipse, and vice versa, is also possible.

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The anticipated American Eclipse is expected to be a total eclipse. The sky will completely go dark as the Moon’s shadow completely covers the Sun. It has been coined as the American eclipse since the path of the Moon’s shadow is expected to include America’s West And East Coasts. The shadow’s path is predicted to pass the coast of Oregon and will travel all the way to Southern California in the East. This will be the first time that an eclipse will move from the West and East coasts in 99 years.

The eclipse itinerary

The total American eclipse will commence at around 11:46 AM ET in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, Moon’s shadow will start covering the Sun at around 12:05 PM ET (9:05 AM PT) on the Oregon coast of the continental US. The shadow shall travel across the forecasted path at a remarkable speed of 1,500 miles per hour.

The phenomenon will end on the South Carolina coast at about 4:06 PM ET.

Scientists all over the world are also busily preparing for the American eclipse. In an interview with the Iowapublicradio, Bob Baer of Southern Illinois University, telescopes have been positioned for a coast-to-coast eclipse coverage. The phenomenal eclipse is scheduled to unfold on August 21.