Lonely Planet Writer

Everything you need to know about the Great American Eclipse

People have spent months planning and booking their perfect trip to enjoy today’s solar event, which many have been calling the Great American Eclipse. Most of the accommodation along the line of the eclipse has long been booked out, with some rural towns even getting a tourism boost. For all your last-minute preparations, here’s what you need to know.

US solar eclipse festival
An installation by Orion Fredericks at the Oregon Eclipse Festival. Image by ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Why should I care about the solar eclipse?

If you’re not already convinced about the sheer coolness of watching the sun disappear behind the moon in broad daylight for a little while, this particular eclipse is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event. It’s the first time North America has been able to enjoy a total solar eclipse in 99 years and it will be viewable all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. 14 states will experience total darkness for approximately two minutes.

What time is the solar eclipse happening?

The partial eclipse will begin at 9:05am PDT in Salem, Oregon, while Charleston in South Carolina will be the last spot to see the sun completely obscured at 2:47pm EDT. You can view the complete path courtesy of NASA here:

How do I safely watch a solar eclipse?

Because the moon is moving in front of the sun and blocking it, many people think it’s safe to watch. This is not the case as it’s still dangerous to look directly at the sun. Sunglasses, binoculars and telescopes do not offer adequate protection and nor do makeshift filters. Instead, anybody who wants to enjoy the full spectacle without damaging their retinas needs to wear special glasses or you can build a pinhole camera to project the image onto some blank paper.

These glasses are one of the few ways to watch a solar eclipse safely.
A woman tests her solar eclipse glasses at an roadside information center in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Image by George Frey/Getty Images

I’m not in North America. Can I watch the solar eclipse?

Some places in Europe, South America and Africa will be able to see a partial eclipse but if you’d like to experience it in full, NASA are hosting a four-hour live-stream called the Eclipse Megacast which you can view here.