Today is the day! A last-minute guide for watching the Great American Eclipse

highway sign about eclipse

The Great American Eclipse is finally here! Be sure to wear certified eclipse glasses when looking at the sun, and check out the links below for more info.

K. Travis

Just a stab in the dark, but you’ve probably heard: There is a total solar eclipse today, August 21.

For the first time since 1979, the moon’s shadow will zip across the continental United States. The shadow will travel from Oregon to South Carolina in a swift 92 minutes. For those in the path of totality, total darkness will last only a couple of minutes. There and elsewhere in most of the United States, the moon will partially block the sun for around three hours.

If you don’t already have plans to travel to the 115-kilometer-or-so-wide path of totality, well, you’re probably too late. But here are some links to help you experience the eclipse, whether or not you’re able to see it in person.

The eclipse will be visible in all of North America — as well as in Central America and a small part of South America. Wondering what you’ll see where you live? Check out this interactive map from NASA or this cool tool from Vox.

Still need eclipse glasses? While many retailers have been sold out for days, some organizations are handing out free glasses at eclipse-watching events. Check your local TV/newspaper/radio stations’ newsfeeds for the latest. Make sure your glasses are safe.

No eclipse glasses? Never fear! You can still see the moon eclipsing the sun by making a pinhole projector or a box projector. Or just let sunlight shine through something that has holes, like a colander or Ritz Cracker (look at the ground to see the shape of the shadow the holes cast).

Watching with kids? Check out Growth Curve blogger Laura Sanders’ tips for protecting little ones’ eyes during the eclipse.

Which reminds me: Whatever you do, don’t look directly at the sun. Permanent damage to your eyes may result. If you’re in the path of totality, officials say it’s OK to look directly at the sun once the moon completely blocks it. But that’s very brief, so be prepared to quickly look away or shield your eyes once the moon slips out of total alignment.

Want to do more with your eclipse experience? It’s not too late to participate in a citizen science project.

Stuck indoors, or out of totality? Watch the livestream. NASA’s programming begins at noon Eastern on NASA TV, which you can watch at this link or right here: 

Want some tunes to go along with it? The NASA interns made an eclipse playlist. There are also several Spotify playlists around, like this one from WXPN, this from the Washington Post and this one from the Boston Globe

If all this excitement has you fancying a future in eclipse chasing, check out our interactive map of the next 15 total solar eclipses.

And let’s not forget that there will be a ton of science going on during the eclipse. Here are the big questions physicists and astronomers will seek to answer today.

Still want more? Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter for eclipse updates and RT’s of our correspondents in totality. Watch as the Science News team takes over the Society for Science & the Public’s Snapchat (Society4Science). And come back to Science News later today for a report from our astronomy writer, Lisa Grossman, who is spending the day in Casper, Wyo., with a research team that’s studying the sun’s wispy atmosphere, the corona.

Kate Travis was the digital director of Science News until December 2021, overseeing editorial website operations and other digital endeavors. She has a B.A. in journalism and an M.S. in science and technology journalism, both from Texas A&M University.

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