It's coming! Are you ready? August 21st is just one month away, and so is the total Solar Eclipse that will occur on that day, causing a mid-day blackout that will be visible across vast stretches of the US. In a diagonal line 70 miles wide and running from South Carolina to Oregon, US residents will be able to watch the first solar eclipse visible across the country in nearly a hundred years.

For locations outside the 70-mile band, the eclipse will be partial, which means that the moon’s shadow will only partially block the sun’s light. A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes directly between the earth and the sun, temporarily blocking the sunlight.

The resulting twilight effect in the middle of the day can be dramatic and disconcerting, which is why many cultures around the world have seen solar eclipses as omens.

Approaching totality

The eclipse will begin at 12:05 Eastern Daylight Time, and with the appropriate safety devices, viewers can watch as the moon gradually covers the surface of the sun. It will take an hour and 12 minutes to reach Totality when the moon’s shadow will completely block out the sun’s light. This is the eeriest part of the eclipse when the stars come out, the temperature drops and the birds stop singing. Totality lasts for just two minutes and two seconds before the moon’s shadow begins retreating across the face of the sun.

Safe viewing

During totality, the sun’s corona becomes visible. It's an opportunity for scientists to study the inner corona of the sun, which is usually difficult to do because of the sun’s glare. Scientists also warn that the eclipse should only be viewed through special safety glasses. Viewing an eclipse with the unprotected eye can be dangerous and can cause irreversible damage to the retina.

Actually, during totality, when the sun’s light is completely blocked, it's possible to look directly at the eclipse. It's when the light is only partially blocked, but the sun’s brightness is reduced that it's most dangerous to look directly at the eclipse. Since totality lasts only for a couple of minutes, it's best not to take any risks, and keep your safety glasses on all the time.

Given that the eclipse will be visible right across the country, people will be traveling to the best locations to watch. These include Madras OR, Caspar WY, Carbondale IL, Nashville TN and Columbia SC. It's bound to be a disturbing, exhilarating experience.