On Monday, August 21, the moon will pass between the earth and the sun for the first total solar eclipse that has been visible from the contiguous United States in more than three decades. The eclipse will be visible in totality from 14 states and partially visible for most of the country, as the path cuts across the center of the U.S.
Taking a look at the history of eclipses is all a matter of perspective.
July 11, 1991: The last time a total solar eclipse was visible from the U.S. was 26 years ago, but that eclipse was only visible from Hawaii. The path of totality traveled south of the U.S. and was visible in Mexico and parts of northern South America.
February 26, 1979: The last time a solar eclipse was visible from the contiguous United States was nearly four decades ago. It was the second eclipse visible in the U.S. in the ‘70s, and could be seen in the northwestern states and much of Canada.
June 30, 1973: During the African eclipse of 1973, scientists flew a supersonic jet over Africa through the path of totality. British scientist John Beckman and others flew at 1,250 miles per hour so they were able to see the total eclipse for 74 minutes, which was 10 times longer than ever observed from the earth.
March 7, 1970: The first solar eclipse visible from the U.S. in the ‘70s had a path of totality that cut across Florida and up the eastern coast.
July 30, 1963: Great Maine Eclipse of 1963 - This solar eclipse’s path of totality was only visible from the U.S. in Maine. It was the first time in more than three decades that an eclipse had been visible in the U.S.
August 31, 1932: Great Maine Eclipse of 1932 - Despite its name, this eclipse was actually visible from a few northeastern states.
January 24, 1925: New York City’s Winter Morning Eclipse - This eclipse was visible from the northern midwest states and some northeastern states. Naval scientists launched two dirigibles equipped with cameras during the eclipse so they could study the eclipse’s effect on telegraph and cable communications.
May 29, 1919: The Eclipse That Changed The Universe - Although not visible from the United States, this is the eclipse that has the largest lasting impact on the scientific and mathematical communities. Scientist Albert Einstein used the eclipse to prove his theory of general relativity. Until that point, scientists and mathematicians had believed Sir Isaac Newton’s view of the universe, which he had laid out in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published more than 200 years earlier.
August 19, 1887: Eclipse from 11,500 feet - Dmitry Ivanovich Mendeleev used a balloon to fly at an altitude of 11,500 feet, so he could rise above the clouds to see the eclipse in its path of totality over Russia.
Future eclipse - April 8, 2024: The next time Americans will be able to experience a total solar eclipse will be in April, 2024. The path of totality will span diagonally across the country from Texas to Maine.