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    Many people think that, even if they will have a 99% partial eclipse, that that's somehow "good enough" - it's not!
    And here's why:

  • Fred Espenak

    If you're outside of the path, it doesn't matter how close to the path you are - if you're outside the path of totality, you're not gonna see the total eclipse. And seeing even a partial eclipse that's 95% - or 98% - or 99% - it's like missing the jackpot by one number. You've lost.

  • Fred Espenak

    Well, to see a total eclipse is just one of the most remarkable astronomical events you can see with the naked eye. There's nothing else like it - no other way to gain this kind of experience. Very few of us will ever get up into orbit to see the Heavens from above Earth's atmosphere. So the closest thing you can come to space travel is to actually see the Sun's corona from the Earth's surface. And the only way you can do that is to be in the path of the eclipse. Now, a lot of people have seen partial eclipses. Some people think they've even seen a total eclipse, but in many cases they've only seen a 90% or 95% partial. And I like to say that the difference between a - a 99% partial eclipse and a total eclipse is the difference between getting 5 out of 6 numbers in the jackpot right. [It's] not the same, you gotta get ALL 6 numbers to win the jackpot, and you've gotta be 100% in the path to really appreciate the total eclipse. A 99.9% eclipse just doesn't make it, it's not the same thing.

  • Fred Espenak

    You really need to get into the path of totality - that's where you get all these spectacular phenomena that take place. You can only see the sun's corona from inside the path of totality. You can only see this eerie twilight that takes place during totality, you can only planets in broad daylight from inside the path of totality, you can only see these prominences and the diamond ring from inside the path of totality. So all these wonderful visual things that are visible during a total eclipse can only be seen from inside the central path of the total eclipse. If you're outside, even by just a few miles, you miss it.

  • Fred Espenak

    No, and the edge effects - you've got to be very careful about making sure you're actually in the path. And even the folks that do the edge effects, they are definitely several miles inside the path of the eclipse. If you're outside the path, you miss it.

  • Thanks, Fred! Let's move over to Michael Bakich for some more insight into this

  • Michael Bakich

    The entire [continental] United States will see an eclipse where at least 48% of the Sun is covered, and that's from the tip of Maine. Now, if you went outside, where the Moon is covering half the Sun, and you looked around, you wouldn't even notice it. Because the rest of the Sun - that half of the Sun - is so brilliant, that it just wouldn't register unless you knew an eclipse was going on.

  • Michael Bakich

    Exactly! You know, that's a good point. Yeah, a lot of people think, oh yeah, well back in 1994 - or back in 2012 - I was in Arizona, and I saw a total eclipse! No, you saw a central eclipse, [you] saw an annular eclipse…

  • Michael Bakich

    I like to say, it's all about totality. A partial eclipse compared to a total eclipse, is the difference between a lightning bug - and lightning! Ha ha ha - it's just that stark! And it doesn't matter if it's 48%, 58, 68 - whatever… Until you hit 100 percent, there are many things that you cannot see - and the one that everybody points to, is the magnificent outer atmosphere of the Sun, called the "corona".

  • Michael Bakich

    It's rare! A certain spot on Earth, on average, only gets a total solar eclipse once every 330 years. And so, it's rare when you are near a location that has totality. So, you really owe it to yourself to get there if you can.

  • You've sold me! Let's hope everyone can make it into the path on eclipse day!

  • Dr. Jay Pasachoff

    So this is an important point for the 2017 eclipse, in which there's a long narrow path that goes across the United States, from Oregon to South Carolina. And there'll be people within a few hours' drive of that, who won't appreciate the importance of taking that drive to get right in the path of totality. Many people mistakenly think that if you have 99% of an eclipse, that you're seeing something good. But really, since the everyday Sun is a million times brighter than the corona at a [total] eclipse, even if you're only having 1% of that million times brighter, that's still 10,000 times brighter than what you see in totality. So, that 10,000 times brighter means you just miss all the great effects during totality. It's just a very dramatic thing, that's an almost primordial feeling, that comes over you as these phenomena take place.

  • Dr. Jay Pasachoff

    We spend a lot of time telling people that they should get in the path of totality, and that it's a wonderful phenomenon. And sometimes, we do convince the people to do that, and when that happens they've almost always come to us afterwards and said, "I know you tried to convince us to go, but it was even more spectacular and dramatic than you said!" There's nothing like seeing it to really understand what's going on.

  • Dr. Jay Pasachoff

    But to do that, you have to travel to the zone of totality, and you have to be outdoors with it - knowledgeable about the safety of filters before and after totality, but looking directly at totality for those couple of minutes that we're gonna have, on August 21st, 2017 in the United States. So I hope we can get millions and millions of people to enjoy totality on that occasion.

  • Dr. Jay Pasachoff

    You can go down - say you wanna go to a baseball game, and I'm from the Bronx, so let's say Yankee Stadium where the Yankees play. And it is entirely possible to go down to buy a ticket for some game, and you go to the box office on the street, under the subway and buy your ticket - and then you just turn around and go home! If somebody says "Where did you go today," you say "I went to Yankee Stadium." Well, sure, you went to the stadium, but you missed the main event - you didn't see the baseball game! And going to a partial eclipse - even a 99% partial eclipse - is like going to the ticket booth outside the stadium, and not going in to see the game. The main event is totality, and you've gotta be there.

  • That's a truly great insight (and I DO love me some baseball!) - thank you, Dr. Pasachoff!

  • Glenn Schneider

    The analogy I like to use is, imagine yourself as a traveler who is enamored with great works of art, and you travel to Paris to go to the Louvre. And you're 99.9[9]% the way there, and you stand outside the door but you never enter the museum to see the collection of masterpieces. Well, that's kind of what it's like to see a 99.9% eclipse - you're looking at the building from the outside, but not seeing what's in there.

  • I get it! Tell us more - what do you see exactly?

  • Glenn Schneider

    And it is such a - an incredible phenomenon! And you talk about needing to be in the path, if you're even just a couple of kilometers outside of the path it's a completely different phenomenon. A partial eclipse, even a 99.9% partial eclipse, is just worlds different from a total solar eclipse. And you've got to be in the Moon's shadow, you've got to be able to see the corona, you've got to be able to be right IN the path in order to witness and - and feel what's going on inside the path of totality.

  • You talked me into it, Glenn! Thanks!

  • Xavier Jubier

    I mean, if you are out[side the path], I mean no matter what, you miss everything. In a partial [eclipse], it's night and day compared to being inside the path. No choice there, I mean for me it's completely different - it's one experience, and the other is... nothing. I think that even if you asked your people, OK, please, tell me what you saw. Most of the people outside of the path would say, "Oh, yeah, it got a bit dark, ummmm... it was nice, and -" and that's it. They won't, you know, say anything more. When you speak to people who have been inside the path, then things are completely different, you know. They can also really describe the event, so I mean it's - it's night and day. Honestly, it's completely different.


  • I don't think we can add any more to that - Thanks, Xavier!

    All right, let's move on and talk about the most important thing there is - EYE SAFETY! You'll want to listen in very carefully, to learn what our experts will be able to tell us!


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