Lonely Planet Writer

Some hotels already booked out as US prepares for solar eclipse in 2017

Next year’s total eclipse of the sun will only pass over the United States. It will be the first American total eclipse in decades. Understandably, serious sky-watchers are keen to make sure they have booked a front-row seat to witness the rare and breathtaking event.

Photo of the last solar eclipse in 1999, seen from London, as a rush-hour eclipse of the Sun brings an unmissable astronomical spectacle to the UK this week that will not be repeated for another decade.
Photo of a solar eclipse in 1999, seen from London. Image by Matthew Fearn/PA Wire

The eclipse will take place on Monday, August 21, 2017, at the height of summer. Tourism operators along its path are already planning for a spike in visitors, with some hotels and campgrounds booked out for that weekend, according to a report. The shadow of the moon cast by the sun on the Earth’s surface will trace a gently curving arc as it races at 2000 miles an hour from America’s northwest to the southeast. Those people in the 65 mile-wide ‘totality zone’ will witness a total solar eclipse’s eerie effect, when the sky is twilit, the stars come out and birds are spooked into a hush.

USA set for a solar eclipse in 2017.
USA set for a solar eclipse in 2017. Image by Kevin Hale / CC BY-SA 2.0

Millions of Americans will be able to witness a partial eclipse using specialist eyewear without leaving home. But for many, only a total eclipse will do. While a partial eclipse can last a couple of hours, this particular total eclipse will last between 30 and 161 seconds, depending on the location. Specialist eyewear is required at all times except for the brief period the sun is totally eclipsed.

This eclipse’s path will travel from the north-central Pacific and end in the mid-Atlantic. As shown on this interactive map, its full passage across the US will last a little over one and a half hours. It will make landfall around Newport, Oregon at about 10:15am. It will then travel diagonally across southern Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina, brushing up against the corners of several other neighbouring states along the way.

But between northwestern fog and deep south humidity, aficionados are already eyeing off their preferred observation sites. The biggest city in the path of the totality zone will be Nashville, Tennessee, but higher altitudes are considered more climatically reliable. One blog has ranked the top ten eclipse-viewing destinations. The largest hotel in number three-ranked Casper, Wyoming is already booked out for AstroCon2017. Eclipse-themed tours of Yellowstone National Park are in the works, and central Wyoming’s Wind River Indian Reservation community is planning cultural events and tours for the day of the eclipse.

Mount Jefferson, Madras, Oregon.
Mount Jefferson, Madras, Oregon. Image by Amy Meredith / CC BY-SA 2.0

But the top-ranked eclipse-viewing location is Madras, Oregon. The high-desert town, which will host a SolarFest to coincide with the event, is beside the stratovolcano Mount Jefferson, so observers will see the mountain darken moments before darkness falls. Annular or ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipses, which should not be viewed with the naked eye, are more common. There’ll be an annular eclipse across central Africa on 1 September this year, and again across Africa and southern Latin America on February 26, 2017. The next total eclipse is due at sunset on July 2, 2019, in parts of Chile and Argentina.