Get Ready for the Total Solar Eclipse in 2017
We answer big questions about this once-in-a-century celestial event.
Cities closest to the path of totality have the best viewing opportunities.
One of nature’s most incredible — and rarest — sights is coming to Oregon next year. On August 21, 2017, the state will be treated to a total solar eclipse, a rare celestial event in which the moon passes in front of the sun and completely blocks its light, briefly turning daytime into twilight. Mark your calendar now, because the next opportunity to view a total solar eclipse from Oregon won’t occur for nearly 100 years.
What is a total solar eclipse? A total solar eclipse can only be seen from within a relatively narrow strip of the Earth’s surface known as the path of totality. Within this region — which is only about 90 miles wide — the sun appears to be completely eclipsed by the moon, and the moon’s shadow on the Earth plunges observers into twilight for several minutes. In this temporary twilight, known as totality, temperatures drop and stars become visible. Observers on either side of the path of totality see only a partial solar eclipse, in which the moon somewhat blocks the sun but daylight still persists.
Where can I experience it? Cities closest to the path of totality have the best viewing opportunities. On August 21, 2017, the path of totality will begin in the remote Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii and first make landfall on the Oregon Coast, just north of Depoe Bay, at 10:15 a.m. From there the moon’s shadow will race east toward Salem, where the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) will be hosting a solar eclipse viewing party at the Oregon State Fairgrounds. Thousands of people are expected to turn out to celebrate the roughly two-minute-long totality in Salem, Oregon’s capital and the largest city in the path of totality. A number of viewing events are being offered in the Salem area at area vineyards, the Oregon State Capitol and more. Continuing east, the shadow of the moon will pass over Madras (where Oregon Solarfest will celebrate), Mitchell (near where Symbiosis and Oregon Star Party will host special viewing events), John Day and Baker City (near where Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort welcomes visitors to ride a ski lift to experience the eclipse). Due to the rapid movement of the moon around the Earth, the moon’s shadow will traverse the entire state of Oregon in only 12 minutes.
Wait, will I go blind? A solar eclipse can be safely viewed by wearing eclipse glasses that block most visible light and all harmful ultraviolet light. These glasses should be worn whenever even a part of the sun can be seen; only during totality when the moon has slid fully in front of the sun is it safe to take off one’s eclipse glasses. In fact, observing those brief seconds of totality without eclipse glasses is encouraged because it’s possible during this time to see the outer atmosphere of the sun and its streamers, loops and plumes of gas. Check out these great eclipse-viewing safety tips from NASA. Solar eclipse glasses are currently available for purchase in the OMSI Science Store for guests unable to attend the viewing party.
What about logistics: weather and traffic? Eclipse chasers from around the world are expected to descend upon Oregon in 2017. There’s the cachet of seeing an eclipse in the state where it first makes landfall, and meteorologists have also predicted that Oregon will have the best weather conditions anywhere along the path of totality. Since neither Portland nor Eugene are within the path of totality, there will additionally be a significant number of urbanites making an exodus from cities to catch a glimpse of the totality. This situation will add up to a lot of people on the move. Roads will likely be very crowded, especially the limited networks throughout Oregon.
I’m ready. How can I book a place to stay? Many hotels and campsites along the path of totality are already booked on the dates surrounding August 21, 2017 — Oregon State Parks reservations sold out just one hour after being posted online. However, campgrounds run by the U.S. Forest Service will take reservations six months in advance (read: February!) and many first-come, first-served Oregon State Parks will be temporarily converted to reservation-only for the eclipse. Keep an eye on eclipse campsite reservations for updates.
Federal, county and private campgrounds have their own booking windows; be sure to check your reservation options in advance so you’ll be ready to reserve at your preferred location. Wherever you go, get there early. And remember that the eclipse takes place on a Monday — the perfect excuse for extending your stay into a full week-long getaway.