On Monday, August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse, frequently referred to as the “Great American Eclipse”, was visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts. In other countries, it was visible only as a partial eclipse.
A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes between Earth and the Sun, thereby totally or partly obscuring the image of the Sun for a viewer on Earth. A total solar eclipse occurs when the Moon’s apparent diameter is larger than the Sun’s, blocking all direct sunlight, turning day into darkness. Totality occurs in a narrow path across Earth’s surface, with the partial solar eclipse visible over a surrounding region thousands of kilometers wide.
The previous time a total solar eclipse was visible across the entire contiguous United States was June 8, 1918; not since the February 1979 eclipse has a total eclipse been visible from anywhere in the mainland United States. The path of totality touched 14 states, although a partial eclipse was visible in all 50 states. The area of the path of totality was about 16% of the area of the United State, although most of this area is ocean, not land. The event’s shadow began to cover land on the Oregon coast as a partial eclipse at 4:05 p.m. UTC (9:05 a.m. PDT), with the total eclipse beginning there at 5:16 p.m. UTC (10:16 a.m. PDT); the total eclipse’s land coverage ended along the South Carolina coast at about 6:44 p.m. UTC (2:44 p.m. EDT). Visibility as a partial eclipse in Honolulu, Hawaii began with sunrise at 4:20 p.m. UTC (6:20 a.m. HST) and ended by 5:25 p.m. UTC (7:25 a.m. HST).
Logistical problems were expected with the influx of visitors, especially for smaller communities. The sale of fake eclipse glasses was also anticipated to be a problem.