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Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21!

A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2017 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Great American Total Solar Eclipse on August 21!

A total solar eclipse on March 20, 2015 in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Norway by Damien Deltenre.

by Vinita Domier

On Monday, August 21, sky watchers across North America will be treated to the rare phenomenon of a solar eclipse. Fortunate observers in the narrow belt spanning the middle of continental USA from west to east will experience a total solar eclipse. For a brief but spectacular moment, day will turn into night as the sun will apparently disappear. Viewers on either side of the band will observe a partial solar eclipse, with the percentage of the sun blocked decreasing away from the narrow totality region.


Join the Davis Astronomy Club at Explorit on Saturday, May 13, at 7:30pm where we will discuss solar eclipses in general, and the momentous August 21 solar eclipse in particular. After the discussion indoors, there will be a star party outdoors, weather permitting. All meetings of the Davis Astronomy Club are free, and everyone is invited.


The first land sighting of the total solar eclipse on August 21 will be at the Oregon coast at 10:15am, and the last land sighting will be at the South Carolina coast 1.5 hrs later. The sun will be partially eclipsed for over an hour before and also after totality, and the maximum duration of totality in the middle of the 115 km band will be 2 mins 40 secs. As the Davis/Sacramento region lies south of the band of totality, viewers will observe a maximum of 80% partial solar eclipse that will begin at 9:02am, peak at 10:17am when the sun will appear crescent shaped, and end at 11:39am.


An eclipse is an astronomical event that occurs when a celestial body is temporarily obscured from view, either by passing into the shadow of another body or by having another body pass between it and the viewer. A solar eclipse can only occur during the new moon phase when the moon is between the sun and the Earth. It is rare phenomenon because the sun, moon, and Earth are not perfectly aligned at every new moon as their orbital planes are slightly tilted with respect to each other.


A total solar eclipse results when the moon’s dark umbral shadow falls on the Earth, briefly obscuring the sun completely for viewers in a narrow band on Earth. A partial solar eclipse is observed when the moon’s less dark penumbral shadow falls on the Earth, resulting in only part of the sun being obscured for viewers in a small area. An annular or ring solar eclipse occurs when the moon obscures most of the sun, leaving a ring visible to viewers in a narrow band.


It is safe to observe the sky with unaided eyes only during the brief moments of totality, as the sun is completely in shadow. Direct viewing of the sun at all other times must be done using a solar telescope or special eclipse-safe eyewear to avoid permanent eye damage. During a solar eclipse, this includes the time prior to and after totality for observers within the narrow totality path, and for observers in the wider regions on either side of the path experiencing various degrees of a partial eclipse.


For more information, please contact Vinita Domier at



Explorit’s coming events:



●      Summer Science Camp registration is open now! Find all the details at


●      Save your clean tin cans and toilet paper tubes for Explorit! We are almost out of one of our most popular Challenge Center building materials. You can help stock us up by saving your clean household items and bringing them to Explorit’s office at 3141 5th St. during our regular business hours, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.


●      Explorit’s Exploration Gallery is open to the public every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, 1:00-5:00 p.m. and every Friday, 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Admission is $5.00 per person; Explorit members, teachers and children 2 and under are free. Come check out the new Nano Mini Exhibition!





Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit, or “like” us on Facebook at

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