hoto courtesy of NASA: Many Americans will gather to watch the first total solar eclipse in 99 years which will begin in Salem, Oregon, and end in Charleston, South Carolina.

By Tiffany Hoyd

WASHINGTON — Millions of Americans will gather in front yards, rooftops and residential streets across the nation Monday to catch a glimpse of what will be the first total solar eclipse to pass across the United States in 99 years.

The moon will pass between the sun and earth and block all or part of the sun as it cuts a diagonal path across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina.

The eclipse, the first since 1918, will cause total darkness for about two minutes for those in the “path of totality,” the route where the moon will completely cover the sun, beginning at 9:05 a.m. Pacific Time in Salem, Oregon, and ending with the last glimpse of the moon’s shadow at 4:10 p.m. Eastern Time near Charleston, S.C.

Americans looking at the sky from outside the direct path will see a partial eclipse as the moon covers part of the sun’s surface. Millions began traveling Sunday to points along the total eclipse so they can see the sun totally covered. South Carolina is expecting as many as 2 million visitors to watch the eclipse.

Several schools throughout the country, including ones in Broward County, Florida, and Madison City, Alabama, have either given students permission to stay home Monday or have decided to completely close their doors so students can see the eclipse.

In some cases, schools are releasing students in part so they are not liable should a child suffer an injury by looking at the eclipse while in school.

“I could not live with myself if a child has permanent retina damage as a result of something that we did at school,” said Madison City Schools Superintendent Robby Parker. 

NOAA and NASA officials are warning people not to look directly at the sun during the eclipse.  Looking directly at the sun is unsafe, the agencies said, except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse, when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.

Glasses for the event can still be purchased. NASA suggests that individuals interested in viewing the eclipse purchase their glasses at approved locations, and refer to the American Astronomical Society, for Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers.

Dr. C. Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said the eclipse “is an opportunity . . .to see dynamic sun from the ground, in a way that we cannot see, even, with the most sophisticated and amazing technology.”

“Nature gives us a glimpse of this part of the sun that’s incredibly dynamic, and has huge implications for the science that we’re interested in, as well as, implications, for our technological society,” Young said while speaking recently at a special conference arranged by NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Photo Courtesy NOAA: Jamese Sims, a graduate of Howard University and
Jackson State University helped design new technology to photograph the first total solar eclipse in the United States since 1918.

NASA and NOAA will provide special photographs of the event using new technology designed in part by Jamese Sims, a graduate of two historically black universities.  Sims received a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., and a doctorate degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C.  She is with NOAA Satellites as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R (GOES-R) Series Algorithm Engineer. She is part of the GOES-R Program’s integrated team of NOAA and NASA scientists and engineers.

A number of sites will be live streaming the event during the time frame of 9 am PDT and 4:30 pm EDT. Sites include:

NOAA photographs of the eclipse will be available at Howard University News Service’s Twitter, and Facebook.