On 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, and the rest of the U. S. had a partial eclipse. The area of the path of totality was about 16% of the area of the United States, with most of this area over the 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.
Future total solar eclipses will cross the United States in April 2024 (12 states) and August 2045 (10 states), and annular solar eclipses—wherein the Moon appears smaller than the Sun—will occur in October 2023 (9 states) and June 2048 (9 states).