If you're wondering why everyone is freaking out about the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, it's because this one is especially unique. While eclipses tend to happen somewhat frequently, Monday's event marks the first time in nearly 100 years that people across the country will be able to see the total solar eclipse in its full glory — the path of totality stretches all the way from the west coast over to east. It's a big deal for many, but can you see the solar eclipse if you're not in the path of totality? The good news is that everyone will get a chance to experience the eclipse to at least some degree — but certain locations are definitely more ideal than others.
But wait, what does this "totality" nonsense even mean? It sounds somewhat apocalyptic, but it's really just a word used to describe the phenomenon when the full moon's shadow completely blocks out the sun, leaving only a fiery ring of the sun's atmosphere (called the gossamer corona by science folks) visible in the sky. It usually only lasts for a few minutes, but it's a pretty amazing thing to witness; unfortunately, though, this type of bulls-eye view is only going to be visible to people who happen to live along the eclipse's direct path on Monday — aka the path of totality.
The 2017 solar eclipse's path of totality starts in northwest Oregon, and will make its way southeast in one fell swoop, hitting states like Idaho, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee before gradually ending its American tour in South Carolina. If you're wondering if your city or town falls along the path of totality, you can check out this super extensive list, here.
But if your town isn't on that list? You're unfortunately not going to be able to see the eclipse reach totality — but that doesn't mean you won't get to experience it at all. According to the American Astrological Society, people who live within 70 miles of the path of totality will have the best view, but anyone who lives within the continental U.S. will still be able to experience at least a partial eclipse, meaning you should still see part of the sun become obscured by the moon's shadow. In New York City, for example, people can expect to see 75 percent of the sun disappear behind the moon's shadow. Eclipse watchers in Washington D.C. can witness the eclipse at roughly 80 percent of totality. In Los Angeles, obscuration will be around 60 percent.
Because we live in the glorious time and age of the internet, there are plenty of maps that can help you track Monday's eclipse. This interactive Google map by Fred Espenak, author of the NASA Eclipse Bulletin, is particularly helpful. Click on your location, and you can see everything from when the eclipse is set to start and finish, to how much of the sun will be obscured by the moon's shadow.
It's also worth mentioning that regardless of whether or not you're in the path of totality, or only able to witness a partial eclipse, you still must wear protective solar eclipse glasses that have been verified to meet international standards. Looking at the partial solar eclipse with the naked eye is still incredibly dangerous, and could permanently mess with your vision, so don't even risk it. There are still a few places that haven't completely sold out of special eclipse glasses yet, and even if you aren't able to get your hands on a pair, you can also go the DIY route and make yourself a pinhole projector that will help you track the moon's shadow. And, if you're not in the path of totality but want to see the phenomenon for yourself, you can always check out a solar eclipse livestream. (NASA's is scheduled to start at 12 p.m. EST.)
Whether you live in the path of totality or not, make sure you get a chance to step outside and safely check the eclipse out. The next total solar eclipse doesn't happen in America until 2024, and honestly, that just seems like way too long to wait.