Famed musician Bill Withers said it best “ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.” On August 21st a solar rarity will occur that has not happened in the United States since our nation declared its independence in 1776. This stellar display will require three celestial bodies ( the sun, the moon, and Earth) that have their own orbital path to line up on the same exact path and time.  It’s being called the Great American Eclipse and rightfully so, it will pass over the U. S. along a stretch of land from Oregon all the way to South Carolina.  Skywatchers lucky enough to be in the path of totality (70 miles wide), will see the moon directly pass in front of the sun, briefly turning day into a delightfully cosmic twilight. The sun’s corona – the sun’s tenuous atmosphere will dance around the dark side of the moons shadow.

Viewers outside of the path will still be able to see a partial eclipse with part of the sun still visible. The total eclipse will begin its journey in Oregon at 10:16 a.m. PDT and end near Charleston, S. C. at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Even though our area will only experience a partial solar eclipse, it will still have pretty good visibility with around 2 to 3 minutes of viewing time. We can expect around 85-88% obscuration for our surrounding area which is extremely worthwhile to take a moment to enjoy.

For the backyard astronomer and everyday enthusiast this is a historical celebration you just cannot miss. Nasa is providing many great opportunities to be a citizen scientist for this event and you can find more information on their website. Wood County Library and the South Parkersburg Library will both be offering free viewing glasses at their Solar Eclipse Viewing Event. If you don’t have glasses, don’t worry! Washington State Community College will be hosting it live on their giant screen projector.  Nasa will also be hosting this space oddity live online. If you are feeling adventurous, many people feel the pull to journey to the center of the path of the total eclipse. You can do this by taking an afternoon off and doing a road trip with friends or family. Nashville, Tennessee will be the largest U.S. city in its path.

If you want to do a weekend celebration, make sure to attend the Serpent Mound Solar Eclipse Festival, taking place in Peebles, OH at The Serpent Mound. Early evidence suggests that the Serpent Mound is represented as swallowing the sun, mimicking this rare and special occurrence.  With a profound spiritual presence and long storied history with astrological scenic landmarks you also will have a great opportunity to see this sky show with around 91 percent visibility. Maybe make a great playlist and host a party.  If you happen to miss this don’t worry. You will have an opportunity to see it again in our area although it will be a few years – April 8, 2024.

*It is not safe to view the partial eclipse with the naked eye or without proper equipment. Make sure you take the correct precautions for yourself and your children.