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Web Extra: Sky Guide 2017

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The long wait is over. On August 21, 2017, the United States will be at the center of the astronomical universe when the Moon’s dark umbral shadow creates the country’s first total solar eclipse in 26 years. But that tells only half the story. The July 11, 1991, eclipse touched just Hawaii before heading to Mexico and then south to Brazil. The last time the U.S. Mainland saw totality was February 26, 1979.

But the decades-long drought will be long forgotten by the time the Moon’s umbra sweeps coast to coast on August 21. The track first hits land in Oregon. (Coincidentally, that state’s capital, Salem, is in the path of totality this year as it was in 1979.) From there, the shadow speeds southeast across the country in approximately 90 minutes until exiting on the South Carolina shore. Totality’s greatest duration occurs in southern Illinois, where the Moon completely hides the Sun’s bright disk for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Still, anyone on the center line will see at least 119 seconds of totality. Observers across the rest of North America can see a partial eclipse, but let’s be real — if you have any interest in astronomy, you need to be in the path of totality on August 21.

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