10 Mind-Blowing Great American Eclipse Facts that everyone should know!
It’s official, Great American Eclipse mania is upon us! Now, only a month away from the big day on August 21, 2017, news, magazines, social media and more will be buzzing with excitement. But, often times, these outlets can miss some of the most fascinating facts. Without further ado, here are Astronimate’s top Great American Eclipse facts that everyone should know:
Great American Eclipse Facts #10: The rarity of a total solar eclipse?
Indeed, total solar eclipses happen every 18 months. Then, why are they so special? Actually, even though they occur rather frequently, a total solar eclipse being visible from the same location is in fact, very rare.
For instance, Los Angeles will have to wait nearly 1,600 years until their next totality! Click on the image below to see the list of major cities’ last and next total eclipse!
Great American Eclipse Facts #9: Perfect size! Coincidence?
As most of us know, our Sun is gigantic. In fact, our star is a massive 400 times larger than our Moon. However, the Sun is also 400 times farther from Earth than the Moon. As a result, the size-difference ratio proves perfect for the smaller Moon to block the larger Sun, giving us a total solar eclipse!
Great American Eclipse Facts #8: The last total solar eclipse…ever!
Gradually, our Moon slowly gets further away from Earth as it orbits (caused by tidal forces). In fact, it gets 3.8 centimeters (1.5 inches) more distance each year! Not much movement, right?
However, over time, the Moon will be far enough that it will no longer be able to block the Sun entirely as we see it from Earth. In other words, there will one day be a final total solar eclipse. But, don’t worry, this will not happen for 563 million years!
Bottom line: see an eclipse in your lifetime, you will NOT regret it!
Great American Eclipse Facts #7: Be ready. It’s brief.
Both the Sun and Moon move relatively slowly across our skies on Earth. But, the moment the Moon completely blocks the Sun (totality) is very brief. In fact, totality can only max out at around 7 minutes and 30 seconds! Actually, the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017 will last 2:40 at most!
Great American Eclipse Facts #6: Midnight. At noon?
During a total solar eclipse, we know the Moon is blocking out the Sun. However, it actually blocks the layer of the Sun that produces most of the visible light we see, the photosphere.
As a result, a tremendous portion of the Sun’s actual light is hidden briefly. This causes the daytime sky to appear dark, like night time! In fact, during many total solar eclipses, stars become visible during the day!
Great American Eclipse Facts #5: Goodnight, birds.
Often times, the daytime sky becomes very dark during a total solar eclipse (see #5). In fact, so dark that it confuses birds. During total solar eclipses, it’s common for birds to stop singing because they think it’s night and attempt to go to sleep. Unfortunately, they’re in for a rude awakening only moments later!
Great American Eclipse Facts #4: Hello, corona!
The corona is a spiky crown-like layer of our Sun’s atmosphere (Latin for “crown”). In reality, it’s scorching-hot plasma trapped in the Sun’s strong magnetic field lines.
But, we can only visibly see the corona from Earth during a total solar eclipse. Simply put, other bright layers (photosphere) constantly block the corona from our view. Therefore, seeing this majestic looking layer is a big treat during total solar eclipses!
Great American Eclipse Facts #3: The skinny path of totality
On Earth, the trail from which the total solar eclipse will be visible is known as the path of totality. People travel from all over the globe to be within this sacred spot during eclipses!
But, while the path of totality may travel great distances across Earth, its width is another story. The path of totality, at its widest, is only around 260 km wide (160 miles). To us humans, that is a large space, but when millions of people are hoping to view a total eclipse, that space fills up quickly!
Great American Eclipse Facts #2: During totality it’s safe to look at the Sun!
Remember when we were kids, and our parents told us to never look directly at the Sun, because you’ll go blind? Well, during totality, you can forget that warning. In fact, to truly appreciate a total solar eclipse, you are urged to not use any filters.
But, keep in mind this applies ONLY DURING TOTALITY!!!
Indeed, looking directly at the Sun even during partial eclipses can cause permanent damage to your eyes!
Great American Eclipse Facts #1: A strange world awaits you during a total solar eclipse
First of all, darkness during the daytime is strange enough to our human senses. We know it’s still daytime, but our bodies are experiencing night. Weird!
However, many other strange things occur during totality of a solar eclipse. For instance, stars may come out, birds may stop singing assuming its bedtime (see #6). Temperatures can quickly drop 10 or 15 degrees.
Even shadows appear unusually sharp and crisp, a result of the Sun’s face growing increasingly smaller as it approaches totality.
Plus, still illuminated places outside of totality may still appear along your horizon. This provides an almost eerie mixture of bright cities along your nighttime environment. Strange, but also very fascinating and unforgettable!
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