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The Great Solar Eclipse of 2017

A rare total solar eclipse is coming to North America on August 21, 2017.

young girl prepares to watch solar eclipse with special eye glasses, picture
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Photo: Daniel MacDonald/Getty Images
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Be sure to protect your eyes with special eclipse-viewing glasses.

It'll be the biggest outdoor event in the United States this summer: On Aug. 21, a dramatic and rare total solar eclipse will plunge the country—or at least a thin band across it—into darkness during the day. While all of North America will see a partial eclipse, a 73-mile-wide path stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience "totality," when "the moon [will slide] in front of the sun, the sky will darken, temperatures will drop, and some stars will become visible," as Katherine Kornei of Portland's Rose City Astronomers puts it. 

Several towns along the path of totality in the West are marking the occasion with big eclipse gatherings. Madras, Oregon, will welcome eclipse fans to Oregon Solarfest with science talks, hot air balloons, and helicopter rides at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds. In Menan, Idaho (outside Idaho Falls), campers and day visitors will be able to watch from the rim of South Menan Butte, nearly 600 feet above the valley floor. The Wyoming Eclipse Festival in Casper will have a golf tournament and historical tours, as well as bookable, unobstructed viewing spots. The Astronomical League will also be in town following its annual convention. 

Unfortunately, if you haven't already reserved a room or campsite in the path of totality, you may need to get creative: Most accommodations will be booked by the time you read this, and roads into the area are expected to be gridlocked that day. If you’re determined to go, your best bet is to check state park systems for campground availability. You could also contact chambers of commerce for towns along the path; the smaller and more remote the town, the better your chances will be. 

More: Stargazing spots around the West. 

This article was first published in July/August 2017. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.