The Path of Totality— What You Need to Know About the Total Solar Eclipse

Most of us have probably heard about the total solar eclipse that will literally sweep the nation on August 21st, but in case you haven’t, here are a few key facts about the upcoming celestial event:

  • The path of totality cuts across the United States from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.
  • The distance from Lincoln Beach to Charleston is around 3,000 miles–the eclipse will cover this distance in about an hour and a half.
  • The path of totality is approximately 70 miles wide.
  • An estimated 12.25 million people live inside the path of totality, and anywhere between 1.85 million and 7.4 million people will travel to the path of totality on August 21st.
  • The longest amount of time that the moon will completely block out the Sun is a short 2 minutes and 40 seconds, expected near Carbondale, Illinois.
  • The eclipse will be visible in parts of Europe, Africa, South America and the Arctic, but only as a partial solar eclipse.​​​​

Between two and five solar eclipses occur every year, but total solar eclipses only occur once every 18 months or so. What makes this year’s total eclipse so unique is that this is the first time the path of totality has spanned the entire United States from coast to coast since 1918.

The eclipse begins at around 10:17AM MST and by 11:35AM MST, we will be able to view a partial eclipse with a magnitude of about 0.96. This means that we will be able to see 96% of the Sun’s surface blocked out by the moon at that time—the maximum amount that will be available for those of us in Bozeman to view before the eclipse continues along its path to the east coast.

If you want to view the eclipse during complete totality your best bet is to travel 3 hours south to Rexburg, Idaho where you can witness a total eclipse for about 2 minutes and 17 seconds.

Regardless of where you are viewing the eclipse from, it is strongly advised to never look directly at the sun without safety-certified glasses. More than 6,800 public libraries around the United States are distributing free eclipse glasses. Here’s a map where you can view both the path of totality and a list of participating libraries:

You won’t want to miss this rare experience because the next total solar eclipse that will be visible from the United States won’t be until April 8, 2024, with much less magnitude available to us Bozemanites. So get outside on August 21st for a few minutes to stretch your legs, enjoy the sunshine and watch the solar eclipse!

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