UPDATE (7/28) -- With modern-day technology, it's never been easier to prepare for natural phenomena like the total solar eclipse happening on August 21. And the new Eclipse Safari App is all the proof you need. With the free app, you get access to interactive maps so you can plan a perfect viewing location for your local area. You'll also find tools that can simulate your view of the eclipse, along with up-to-date news about the eclipse status as it comes in by the minute. That way, you can be sure not to miss anything!
With so many Americans in the path of the eclipse, there's no question that they'll be coming out in droves. Don't miss out on being starstruck along with them!
(7/24) It's not every day we see a solar eclipse. But on Aug. 21 this year, you'll get the chance to see a total solar eclipse as the rare phenomenon sweeps across America.
In a total solar eclipse, the moon passes between Earth and the sun, which will completely block millions of people's view of the sun, and thus cast those people into temporary darkness. If you happen to be one of the people standing in the moon's shadow, you'll get to see the sky darken and feel the temperature drop as the sun looks like a black circle, with its usually invisible atmosphere finally visible around it.
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The stages of a total solar eclipse, as seen from Turkey in 2006. Getty Images
Because this is the first eclipse to cross the entire continental United States in nearly a century, the excitement surrounding this event will undoubtedly be... astronomical. (Sorry, we couldn't resist!) But in all sincerity, it is a big deal that this is the first total solar eclipse to happen solely in the United States since our great country was founded, especially because an estimated 12 million people live in the "path of totality," or the 70-mile-wide, 3,000-mile-long region that will be directly in the shadow of the moon.
So in other words, if you're in the path, you definitely shouldn't miss out on this.
The solar eclipse is expected to begin north of Newport, Oregon at 10:15 a.m. Pacific time. The eclipse will then move southeast through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The shadow will leave the continental United States nearby Charleston, S.C., at approximately 2:49 p.m. Eastern time. More details on specific times for optimal viewing in select cities can be found here.
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Anyone within the path of totality should be able to see the solar eclipse, provided it's not too overcast that day (Hear that, clouds? Stay away!). But don't try to catch it with the naked eye. You absolutely must wear special eclipse-watching glasses while you're looking at the sun — except for the brief period of totality. This also applies to you if you're watching the sun from outside the path. Otherwise, the ultraviolet rays can literally give your eyeballs a sunburn, risking terrible damage. Regular sunglasses will not cut it; only solar filters will protect you, so here's where to buy them.
After your peepers are protected and your sun viewing spot has been selected, don't forget to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show of a lifetime!
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