It’s been 38 years since a total solar eclipse touched any of the contiguous 48 states and 26 years since solar totality moved through Hawaii. In three weeks, the moon cuts in front of the sun, and there will be a total solar eclipse, with an approximately 70-mile-wide, temporary band of shadow making its way from Oregon to Missouri to South Carolina on Aug. 21. Easily, it will be the talk of many towns.
For Washington, this event will be a partial eclipse, with 81 percent of the sun obscured, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. The eclipse starts at 1:17 p.m. Eastern, and the middle of the eclipse occurs at 2:42 p.m. It all ends at 4:01 p.m. For Baltimore, the eclipse starts a minute later than in Washington.
Many places will be in the path of the eclipse shadow. In Charleston, S.C., a city within the solar totality band, the eclipse starts at 1:16 p.m. Totality begins at 2:46 p.m. and ends just shy of 2:48 p.m. The partial eclipse there ends at 4:09 p.m.
Music City — Nashville — will converge harmonically to watch as the eclipse starts at 11:58 a.m. Central, the local time. Totality lasts almost two minutes, from 1:27 p.m. to 1:29 p.m., and it all ends at 2:54 p.m.
Web resources for eclipse information are abundant. Obtain details and find maps at greatamericaneclipse.com and NASA’s eclipse2017.nasa.gov. For any town or city in the United States, the Naval Observatory provides local eclipse circumstances at goo.gl/ekVciJ.
Mind your eyes. Do not look at the sun if it is not 100 percent covered. Do not look at it through binoculars or telescopes without proper filters, as you could go blind instantly. Protect your eyes: eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.
Eclipse events for Aug. 21
●See the eclipse safely through solar-filtered telescopes free at the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory, outside near the National Air and Space Museum on the Mall and at the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Va. (Parking at the Udvar-Hazy Center is $15.) 1-4 p.m. airandspace.si.edu. (Other viewing locations will be the National Archives, the National Zoo and other locations near the Mall.)
●The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum presents the total solar eclipse, live from the path of totality online at s.si.edu/2v3X10D, 1:30-2:30 p.m. It is hosted by the STEM in 30 team.
●Slooh.com — an astronomical event broadcaster — will webcast the Transcontinental Eclipse starting at noon Eastern.
●See the eclipse live stream at CNN.com/eclipse, with a 360-degree video in high resolution and virtual reality. This is presented in collaboration with Volvo Car USA.
●The San Francisco-based Exploratorium offers a free eclipse app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Check out the Web page at bit.ly/2v3PteE. It offers a live stream and excellent detail.
The giant gaseous Jupiter spends August in the west-southwestern sky after sunset, as it is quite visible at -1.8 magnitude, very bright. For several months, the star Spica has been the big planet’s constant cosmic companion. Days after the solar eclipse, the slim crescent of a very young moon scoots by Jupiter on the evenings of Aug. 24 and 25.
Saturn (zero magnitude, bright) stands high in the south after sunset now. Catch the waxing moon glide by the ringed planet on the evening of Aug. 2.
Mars continues to hang out close to the sun, so we can’t find our red neighbor. It returns to the morning sky in September.
Venus reigns over the morning heavens in late summer. This negative fourth magnitude (exceptionally bright) planet beams brilliantly before sunrise in the east-northeast. The skinny, elderly waning moon slings past Venus on the mornings of Aug. 18 and 19.
The moon dips into Earth’s dark shadow Aug. 7 for a partial lunar eclipse visible in Asia, Africa and Australia.
The Perseid meteor shower — over the weekend of Aug. 11-13 — will compete with a bright, waning gibbous moon, just days past full. The moon is likely to wash out all but the brightest shooting stars. The official peak is predicted for Sept. 12, according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. If you scan the night skies patiently, you might see perhaps a few meteors.
Down to Earth events:
● Aug. 5 — “Solar Eclipse 2017: What to Expect Here in Maryland,” a talk by astronomer Elizabeth Warner, at the University of Maryland Observatory, College Park. Enjoy the night sky through telescopes afterward, weather permitting. 9 p.m. astro.umd.edu/openhouse
● Aug. 7 — Get a sneak preview of August’s exciting sky at the “Stars Tonight” presentation at the David M. Brown Planetarium, 1426 N. Quincy St., Arlington, adjacent to Washington-Lee High School. 7:30 p.m. $3. friendsoftheplanetarium.org
● Aug. 12 — “Exploring the Sky,” hosted by the National Park Service and the National Capital Astronomers, at Rock Creek Park, near the Nature Center, in the field south of Military and Glover roads NW. 8:30 p.m. capitalastronomers.org