The much-anticipated August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse is around the corner, and the more informed you are the more likely you are to have an incredible viewing experience. This is the last time a total solar eclipse will cross the United States for a number of years, so you want to know what to expect and how to see it.
A new episode of breaks down every phase of the phenomenon, considered perhaps the most incredible natural spectacle seen by humanity. First you will need to get to the right spot, in the middle of the shadow where the moon will completely cover the sun in the sky. But you should also know what happens next to make the most of the experience.
The most important things to keep in mind are the times, known as C1, C2, C3 and C4. The first time is the exact moment that the lunar disk touches the solar disk in the sky. The moon will then continue to cover the sun, taking about an hour to cover it completely, which is the moment C2 and the beginning of totality. After roughly 2 minutes of totality, depending on how close to the center of the moon's shadow you are, the sun bursts back out at C3. Contact time 4 is about an hour later, the moment the moon uncovers the sun completely again.
Knowing the times is important because certain events happen right around them that you don't want to miss. Many things change during the moments of an eclipse. Temperature drops, lighting changes, animals respond to the sudden onset of darkness.
A moment known as "the diamond ring" occurs when only a small part of the sun is still uncovered, and the light around it looks like a diamond ring. Bailey's Beads follow, and they occur immediately before C2 just for a split second. This is right before the lunar disk covers the solar disk, and due to the valleys and mountains on the moon you see the solar light breaking through those space and twinkling on the edges of the moon.
If you're lucky, you might even witness something known as shadow bands. They do not happen at every eclipse or every observing area. This is when the the light bends and motions of snake-like shadows crawling together coverer the ground. Scientists still do not fully understand why it happens, and videos of the phenomenon are generally of poor quality. Shadow bands occur just before C2 and right after C3, when the sun is just a sliver in the sky like a thin crescent moon.
The most important thing is to make sure is to get to a spot near the center of totality. Also remember to watch the weather and be prepared to drive somewhere else if it gets cloudy. The app will use your GPS location to tell you the exact times of all four times, so you can know when to look for each part of the eclipse. And be sure to check out YouTube channel for more videos on the best was to see, and photograph, the 2017 Great American Eclipse.