Prepare for the epic total solar eclipse hitting the US in 2017

A once-in-a-lifetime moment will sweep across the US two years from now. Crave's Eric Mack says it's already time to plan your travel and your soundtrack.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
3 min read

This map shows the narrow corridor that will see a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. NASA/F. Espenak

You may have seen a solar eclipse before, but the odds are good that you haven't witnessed anything like the total solar eclipse that will roll across the contiguous United States a little over two years from now. In fact, if you haven't already started making your plan for the first great American eclipse of the century, you might already be behind.

If you've seen an eclipse in the US, it was probably just a partial eclipse, which astronomy enthusiasts will tell you is nothing compared with seeing a solar eclipse in totality, when our star goes completely black save for its eerie corona, the sky dims and stars can become visible in the daytime.

The last time such a thing was witnessed in the US was 1991, and that was only from certain parts of Hawaii. The contiguous 48 states haven't seen a total eclipse since 1979, when one sort of drifted through the northwest quarter of the country -- we haven't had one coast-to-coast since 1918.

Stunning shots of the 2012 total solar eclipse (pictures)

See all photos

The total solar eclipse will first become visible from the Oregon coastline on August 21, 2017, at 10:17 a.m. between Lincoln City and Newport, and then march all the way to the Atlantic near Charleston, S.C.. While at least a partial eclipse will be visible from all of North America and parts of other continents, to experience the the full solar disappearing act, you'll need to be somewhere along the narrow corridor in the map above at just the right time, and ideally with clear skies.

Notable potential viewing locations include Salem, Ore.; Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming; parts of St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.; Nashville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tenn. -- and finally Charleston, S.C., will also see anywhere between a few seconds and a few minutes of a total solar eclipse. Bizarrely for me personally, the path of the eclipse will cast its long shadow on both of the small towns where I attended college in Oregon and in Missouri.

NASA offers this particularly helpful Google map to help plan the best spots to view the eclipse from, and a handful of travel agencies are already taking reservations for eclipse trips, particularly from Europe. There's also a handy breakdown here of where you'll be able to see what.

Nowhere is more ready for the Great American eclipse than the Kentucky town of Hopkinsville, which is nearest the point where the eclipse will last longest, at 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Locals there expect it to be the biggest thing to hit the town of less than 50,000, where they've already been planning for a few years now.

There's even a site that's already taking detailed looks at the potential weather forecasts for that day, two years in advance.

That's a lot of buildup for a performance that's less than 3 minutes long. To really deliver, this eclipse is going to have to be something like the best punk rock song in history.

What do you think? Where along the eclipse path would you most want to watch from? And what punk song would you want to hear during those 2 minutes?