A total solar eclipse is a rare event in the United States. Fortunately, on August 21st 2017, Nebraska is in path of the eclipse from our western Panhandle to our southeastern corner. Because of our landscape of rolling Sandhills, farms and ranches, and river valleys, there is almost nothing to interfere with your view of the eclipse here in Nebraska.

Conveniently, a very long stretch of Interstate 80 from before North Platte to the edges of Lincoln is within the path of totality. This divided highway will thus afford great mobility in the event that dodging clouds becomes necessary. Unless there is widespread cloudy weather, eclipse-seeking visitors should meet success if they utilize Interstate 80, Highway 385, and Highway 2.

To learn more about this eclipse and how to make sure you have a successful eclipse viewing read on.

16 Facts You Need To Know About The 2017 Solar Eclipse. 

1. This will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. in 38 years. The last one occurred February 26, 1979. Unfortunately, not many people saw it because it clipped just five states in the Northwest and the weather for the most part was bleak. Before that one, you have to go back to March 7, 1970.

2. A solar eclipse is a lineup of the Sun, the Moon, and Earth. The Moon, directly between the Sun and Earth, casts a shadow on our planet. If you’re in the dark part of that shadow (the umbra), you’ll see a total eclipse. If you’re in the light part (the penumbra), you’ll see a partial eclipse.

3. A solar eclipse happens at New Moon. The Moon has to be between the Sun and Earth for a solar eclipse to occur. The only lunar phase when that happens is New Moon.

4. Solar eclipses don’t happen at every New Moon. The reason is that the Moon’s orbit tilts 5° to Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Astronomers call the two intersections of these paths nodes. Eclipses only occur when the Sun lies at one node and the Moon is at its New (for solar eclipses) or Full (for lunar eclipses) phase. During most (lunar) months, the Sun lies either above or below one of the nodes, and no eclipse happens.

5. Eclipse totalities are different lengths. The reason the total phases of solar eclipses vary in time is because Earth is not always at the same distance from the Sun and the Moon is not always the same distance from Earth. The Earth-Sun distance varies by 3 percent and the Moon-Earth distance by 12 percent. The result is that the Moon’s apparent diameter can range from 7 percent larger to 10 percent smaller than the Sun.

6. It’s all about magnitude and obscuration. Astronomers categorize each solar eclipse in terms of its magnitude and obscuration, and I don’t want you to be confused when you encounter these terms. The magnitude of a solar eclipse is the percent of the Sun’s diameter that the Moon covers during maximum eclipse. The obscuration is the percent of the Sun’s total surface area covered at maximum. Here’s an example: If the Moon covers half the Sun’s diameter (in this case the magnitude equals 50 percent), the amount of obscuration (the area of the Sun’s disk the Moon blots out) will be 39.1 percent.

7. Solar eclipses occur between Saros cycles. Similar solar and lunar eclipses recur every 6,585.3 days (18 years, 11 days, 8 hours). Scientists call this length of time a Saros cycle. Two eclipses separated by one Saros cycle are similar. They occur at the same node, the Moon’s distance from Earth is nearly the same, and they happen at the same time of year.

8. Everyone in the continental U.S. will see at least a partial eclipse. In fact, if you have clear skies on eclipse day, the Moon will cover at least 48 percent of the Sun’s surface. And that’s from the northern tip of Maine.

9. It’s all about totality. Not to cast a shadow on things, but likening a partial eclipse to a total eclipse is like comparing almost dying to dying. I know that 48 percent sounds like a lot. It isn’t. You won’t even notice your surroundings getting dark. And it doesn’t matter whether the partial eclipse above your location is 48, 58, or 98 percent. Only totality reveals the true celestial spectacle: the diamond ring, the Sun’s glorious corona, strange colors in our sky, and seeing stars in the daytime. Only being on the center line will allow viewers to see the diamond rings and the interval of totality between them.

10. You want to be on the center line. This probably isn’t a revelation, but the Moon’s shadow is round. If it were square, it wouldn’t matter where you viewed totality. People across its width would experience the same duration of darkness. The shadow is round, however, so the longest eclipse occurs at its center line because that’s where you’ll experience the Moon’s shadow’s full width.

11. Cool things are afoot before and after totality. Although the big payoff is the exact lineup of the Sun, the Moon, and your location, keep your eyes open during the partial phases that lead up to and follow it. As you view the beginning through a safe solar filter, the universe will set your mind at ease when you see the Moon take the first notch out of the Sun’s disk. Around the three-quarters mark, you’ll start to notice that shadows are getting sharper. The reason is that the Sun’s disk is shrinking, literally approaching a point, and a smaller light source produces better-defined shadows. At about 85 percent coverage, someone you’re with will see Venus 34° west-northwest of the Sun. If any trees live at your site, you may see their leaves act like pinhole cameras as hundreds of crescent Suns appear in their shadows.

12. Only one large city in the U.S. has a great view. Congratulations if you’re one of the 609,000 people lucky enough to live in Nashville. However there are more than 10 cities in Nebraska that have view of the totality.
13. Totality is safe to look at. During the time the Moon’s disk covers that of the Sun, it’s safe to look at the eclipse. In fact, to experience the awesomeness of the event, you must look at the Sun without a filter during totality.

14. You won’t need a telescope. One of the great things about the total phase of a solar eclipse is that it looks best to naked eyes. The sight of the corona surrounding the Moon’s black disk in a darkened sky is unforgettable. That said, binoculars give you a close-up view — but still at relatively low power — that you should take advantage of several times during the event.

15. Nature will take heed. Depending on your surroundings, as totality nears you may experience strange things. Look. You’ll notice a resemblance to the onset of night, though not exactly. Areas much lighter than the sky near the Sun lie all around the horizon. Shadows look different. Listen. Usually, any breeze will dissipate and birds (many of whom will come in to roost) will stop chirping. It is quiet. Feel. A 10°–15° F drop in temperature is not unusual.

16. The next total solar eclipse over the continental U.S. occurs April 8, 2024. It’s a good one, too. Depending on where you are (on the center line), the duration of totality lasts at least 3 minutes and 22 seconds on the east coast of Maine and stretches to 4 minutes and 27 seconds in southwestern Texas. After that eclipse, it’s a 20-year wait until August 23, 2044 (and, similar to the 1979 event, that one is visible only in Montana and North Dakota). Total solar eclipses follow in 2045 and 2078.

13 Tips To Make Sure You Have An Awesome Eclipse

1.Take eclipse day off, ASAP

You now have less than a year to make sure you don’t have to be at work on August 21, 2017. For an event that many are calling the single largest tourism event in American history you’ll want to be sure that you have the day off well ahead of time.

2. Make a weekend out of it

With the eclipse happening on a Monday it’s a great opportunity to make it a 3 day weekend. Communities across Nebraska will be hosting events for the whole weekend. Make it a vacation.

3. Watch the weather

Meteorologists study a chaotic system. Nobody now can tell you with absolute certainty the weather a specific location will experience on eclipse day. Fortunately with I-80 and several well-maintained highways running across the path of the eclipse you’ll be sure that you can get to a great viewing location in Nebraska.

4. Stay flexible on eclipse day

Unless you are certain August 21 will be clear, don’t do anything that would be hard to undo in a short time. For example, let’s say you’re taking a motor home you’ll want to bring another vehicle that will allow you to move quickly.

5. Don’t plan anything funky

Totality will be the shortest two and a half minutes of your life. All your attention should be on the Sun. Anything else is a waste. And be considerate of those around you. Please, no music.

6. Go to the restroom before things get going

Don’t wait until the last minute, make a preemptive strike 45 minutes before totality. This is actually good advice for any event.

7. Bring a layer

It will get cooler during the eclipse. Sometimes 10-15 degrees cooler. While that will probably be lovely in August if you get cold easily you should be prepared.

8. View the 360° sunset

During totality, take a few seconds to scan the horizon. You’ll see sunset colors all around you because, in effect, those locations are where a sunset is happening.

9. Get a filter in advance

Cardboard “eclipse” glasses with lenses of optical Mylar cost about $2. Such a device — it’s not a toy — will let you safely look directly at the Sun. It filters out most of the light, all of the dangerous infrared (heat) and ultraviolet radiation. Get one well in advance, and you can look at the Sun anytime. Another safe solar filter is a #14 welder’s glass, which also will cost you $2.

10. Bring a chair

In all likelihood, you’ll be at your viewing site several hours before the eclipse starts. You don’t really want to stand that whole time, do you?

11.Don’t forget the sunscreen

Most people who go outside during the summer know this. Remember, you’ll be standing around or sitting outside for hours. You may also want to bring an umbrella or other portable shade.

12. Bring snacks and drinks

You don’t want to get hungry or thirsty waiting for the eclipse to start. August in Nebraska is warm bring a cooler with ice-cold drinks.

13. Don’t photograph the eclipse

This is especially important for first-time eclipse viewers and it may sound strange because it’s such a big event. But unless you’re a world-class photographer you’re just going to distract yourself from taking in the eclipse.

We hope you’ve found these facts and tips helpful and we’re looking forward to welcoming eclipse chasers from across the world to our great state in August.