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4 Fun Facts About the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, and Why You Don’t Want to Miss It!

2017 total solar eclipseThis year, on August 21, the United States will experience an amazing solar eclipse. A solar eclipse is an incredibly rare event to experience, and here are some fun facts about this phenomenon that will get you counting down the days until August.

If you are 38-years-old or younger, this will be the first solar eclipse of your lifetime

The 2017 total solar eclipse is the first one to happen in the continental U.S. for 38 years. Previously, the last eclipse on February 26, 1979, was only viewed by those in select states in the Northwest, but come August, everybody in the country will be able to view at least a partial eclipse.

There has to be a perfect mix of environmental conditions for solar eclipses to be viewable

A solar eclipse is a perfect lineup of the sun, the moon, and the Earth. A solar eclipse can only happen during the lunar phase of a new moon, but the timing has to be perfect for this to occur. Let’s break down the steps:

  • The moon’s orbit tilts five degrees to the Earth’s orbit around the sun.
  • The intersection of these two paths are known as nodes.
  • A solar eclipse only occurs when the sun lies at one node and the Earth stands at the other. But since the moon and the sun are constantly moving at separate rates, this is a rare occurrence.

The 2017 total solar eclipse happens in the middle of two Saros cycles

Astronomers call the length of time between lunar and solar eclipses to be a Saros cycle. This is when the moon’s distance from the Earth is the nearly the same as in a total solar eclipse. Generally each lunar and solar eclipse happen within a Saros cycle, which recur every 18 years, 11 days, and eight hours.

You’ll only be able to see the 2017 solar eclipse for two minutes

The period when the sun gets in the path of the moon is called totality, and this period will only last for a maximum of two minutes and 40.2 seconds. This happens so fast that you won’t even notice when your surroundings are getting dark, so make sure to set a reminder to go outside so you don’t miss it!

With these facts in mind, August can’t come fast enough!

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