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Total Solar Eclipse 2017: Everything You Need to Know

On Monday, Aug. 21, the Great American Eclipse will give those in the United States a rare sight — the moon will slip in front of the sun, blocking the rays from hitting Earth and resulting in a gorgeous solar eclipse for those in the path of totality, from Oregon to South Carolina, and a partial one for those outside that path. The U.S. won't be privy to such a view until April 8, 2024, when those in North America will be able to see the total solar eclipse.

To help you prepare for a fun and safe eclipse-viewing, Live Science has compiled everything you need to know, from where to watch, how to watch and the science behind the event. [Watch the Great American Solar Eclipse Live Online]

What is a solar eclipse?

Where should you watch the eclipse?

To find out how close you are to the path of totality, check out these NASA maps of each state with viewing spots.

(Image credit: Teguh Mujiono/Shutterstock)

For the following areas in the U.S., totality starts at the following local times, according to Eclipse2017.org:

  • Beach just north of Newport, Oregon: 10:15 a.m.
  • Madras and Warm Springs, Oregon: 10:19 a.m.
  • Stanley, Idaho: 11:28:18 a.m. MDT
  • Mackay, Idaho: 11:30:19 a.m. MDT
  • Weiser, Idaho: 11:25:18 a.m. MDT
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: 11:35 a.m.
  • Pavillion, Wyoming: 11:38 a.m.
  • Alliance, Nebraska: 11:49 a.m.
  • Lincoln, Nebraska: 1:02 p.m.
  • Troy, Kansas: 1:05 p.m.
  • Atchison, Kansas: 1:06 p.m.
  • Kansas City, Missouri: 1:08 p.m.
  • Murphysboro, Illinois: 1:19:30 p.m.
  • Makanda, Illinois: 1:20:11 p.m.
  • Carbondale, Illinois: 1:20 p.m. 
  • Marion, Illinois: 1:20:40 p.m.
  • Paducah, Kentucky: 1:22 p.m.
  • Franklin, Kentucky: 1:26:48 p.m.
  • Clarksville, Tennessee: 1:25 p.m.
  • Nashville, Tennessee (at the State Capitol): 1:27 p.m.
  • Clayton, Georgia: 2:35:45 p.m.
  • Bryson City, North Carolina: 2:35:13 p.m.
  • Murphy, North Carolina: 2:34 p.m.
  • Greenville, South Carolina: 2:38 p.m.
  • Charleston, South Carolina: 2:46:22 p.m. 

(Find out where and when the solar eclipse will be visible to you at Eclipse2017.org)

How to watch the solar eclipse online

If you aren't able to witness the solar eclipse in person, there are still ways for you to experience the celestial event. NASA will be hosting two livestreams on Monday: one that follows the eclipse as it makes its way across the U.S., and another from Carbondale, Illinois, a town that is being called the "crossroads" of the eclipse because it lies along the path of totality for this solar eclipse and another in 2024.

How to watch the solar eclipse safely

REMEMBER to never look directly at the sun during an eclipse — During the very brief period of totality, you are safe to gaze at the sun, because the moon's shadow has completely blotted out the light. But at all other times, looking directly at the sun can harm your eyes. You must wear solar eclipse viewers; sunglasses won't do the trick. Here's a visual step-by-step guide (and a video) for how to make your own viewers.

Solar eclipse viewers

Here are some other resources you may find helpful:

How did ancient people view the eclipse?

Others saw the bizarre darkening of the skies as omens and even as inspiration for superstitions:

Why does the path of totality move West to East?

Shouldn't the run East to West like the sun rises and sets, respectively? The answer has to do with how the moon orbits Earth — it treks around our planet from West to East (if you were looking down from above, you'd see our lone satellite moving counterclockwise around us). During the solar eclipse, the moon's shadow, called the umbra, follows the moon's path, of course.

Solar eclipse science

For some skywatchers, the upcoming eclipse is also an opportunity to duplicate one of the most famous experiments of the 20th century, which astrophysicist Arthur Eddington performed in an attempt to prove that light could be bent by gravity, a central tenet of Albert Einstein's theory of general theory.

Here's also a rundown of 10 solar eclipses that changed science. And here's a look at the hopes and dreams of solar eclipse chasers: Solar Eclipse-Chasing Jets Aim to Solve Mystery of Sun's Corona

Want to read more about eclipse science? Check out these stories:

Original article on Live Science.