We’re nearing a pinnacle of astronomical excitement: a solar eclipse is set to cover all of North America on August 21 st, 2017. A broad line through the United States from Oregon to South Carolina will receive a total eclipse, other areas witnessing partial obscuration of the sun. Total solar eclipses appear somewhere on Earth every one or two years; identical eclipse events occur about every two decades, making them rare. The area around GoldBio will be at the core of this astronomical phenomenon.

Astronomy is a science separate from our expertise in biotechnology, but it is no less fascinating to us as everyday scientists and curious humans pondering the complexity of our solar system. To inform you on the impending eclipse, we’ve done some research to help readers understand the eclipse’s origins, predict what it will look like in your area and maximize a safe viewing experience.

2017 Solar Eclipse Facts

Science of solar eclipses

Astronomers have worked for centuries to expel myths of celestial entities that consume the sun or punish humanity by temporarily stealing our light source. Science provides us with alternative, more accurate interpretations for eclipse events, excluding omens and superstition.

An eclipse occurs when one celestial body – either the sun or the moon – is made invisible by another, an incident known as occultation. Predictions on each eclipse are made based on geometric calculations of alignment to determine the path, duration and completeness of the occultation. Eclipses are cyclical, their frequency based on the orbit patterns of the sun, moon and Earth.

There are two types of eclipses: lunar or solar. The lunar variation happens when Earth moves between the sun and moon, blocking sunlight from the smaller of the two. This shadow obstructs our vision of the moon, and resulting obstruction can be hours long.

Solar eclipses manifest when the moon comes between Earth and sun. Light is blocked from Earth and causes the sun to be partially or fully obstructed. This can only transpire during a new moon and a period when the sun and moon are aligned to overlap in front of Earth. Between two and five solar eclipses occur annually.

Solar eclipses are ellipse-shaped and come in partial, annular and total forms. Partial eclipses cover some or most of the sun; they are prevented from complete coverage if the alignment of the sun, Earth and moon is imperfect. Eclipses are considered annular when the moon is far from Earth (nearer its “apogee”) and doesn’t completely block the sun, leaving an outer ring of the larger sphere visible.

Total eclipse is the rarest of the forms and is witnessed by only a small portion of Earth. It requires the perfect alignment of all three bodies. The umbra, also known as the “zone of totality,” is a central concentration of the moon’s shadow that produces the total eclipse over a fraction of the moon’s path. If you are beneath the umbra, only the corona of the sun will show around the moon’s edges to illuminate Earth. This results in a light quality synonymous to nighttime and corresponding temperature drop.

For those not in the ideal center of this path, you can still see a partial eclipse. Located in the penumbra – the larger and less intense of two shadows being produced by the moon – you can still have partial to majority obstruction of the sun. The entire path of a solar eclipse can be 10,000 miles long. While the umbra is typically 70-100 miles across, the penumbra can be larger than 4000. Solar eclipses only last for a few minutes, but the experience is lifelong and unforgettable.

August 21st eclipse

Now for the profile of our featured eclipse. This eclipse meets all of the requirements for production: it will be a new moon near enough to Earth in its elliptical circuit to cover the entire sun. It also crosses Earth’s orbital plane – despite a five degree difference in orbits, there are two points (nodes) where the Earth and moon’s paths align perfectly, and the moon will enter one of these on the 21 st of August.

Three cycles had to align for this to occur: the new moon (the familiar synodic month, 29.530 days); the moon reaching its closest point has to Earth (an anomalistic month, 27.554 days); and the moon entering a node (a draconic month, or 27.212 days). This convergence of three characteristics is completed every Saros cycle, a fixed period which produces the combination every 18 years, 11 days, and eight hours.

For those in the zone of totality, you will first see Baily’s beads surrounding the moon as it moves in front of the sun. These spots of light are where canyons on the moon’s surface let out portions of sunlight. Complete obstruction will follow, allowing only the sunlight’s corona ring to be visible. You may be able to see the chromosphere, solar prominences and occasional solar flare from behind the moon’s outer edges. Stars will decorate the readjusted darkness of the cosmos. For those in partial obstruction, you’ll experience a crescent-image of the sun and altered beams of light. Not as fantastic, but definitely still an astounding experience.

This particular eclipse will cross the U.S. in one and a half hours at 1462-2955 mph speeds, traveling slower nearer the center of the continent.

Baily's Bead - 2017 Solar Eclipse Facts


The path and geography of the moon as well as your location on Earth’s surface will impact your viewing quality. Being outside the umbra’s range will put you at a lower percentage of sun coverage, and the further you are from this central shadow, the more sun you’ll see in a partial eclipse. Outside of the penumbra, other countries and continents will not experience an eclipse whatsoever. Additionally, high elevation may shift you in or outside of the moon’s shadow.

By state, the best locations will be found in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina, all of which are practically bisected by the umbra’s path. Other states including Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina will have smaller encounters with the umbra. The remaining continental U.S. will experience a penumbra and subsequent partial eclipse.

Astronomers have produced intricate reference maps for the duration and totality of darkness you will experience at any locale. Here are a couple of these advanced models:

Interactive map by NASA

Eclipse totality and time calculator based on location

This phenomenon has not intersected the entire country for almost a century, and the next total eclipse over the United States will be in 2024, so don’t miss out – plan according to any distance you might travel to reach the umbra’s path and hope the weather supports your viewing!


Safety should be taken into consideration for viewing the eclipse. There is always a risk of partial blindness as a result of looking at the sun, even when sunglasses are involved; eclipse events are no exception. Damage to vision can be severe and permanent. Direct viewing of the sun without the use of specially-designed solar observing equipment (items like tanning glasses or regular sunglasses) can have lifelong consequences. It’s advised to wear certified eclipse glasses or other approved viewing equipment such as welding masks to protect your eyes during eclipse viewing.

Filtration eclipse glasses are manufactured and purchase is cheap and easy, especially when an eclipse is imminent. These glasses have solar lenses for direct viewing of the sun during partial or annular eclipses. In total eclipses, direct viewing is only safe when the photosphere of the sun is entirely obstructed, so it’s recommended you buy this equipment for viewing periods immediately preceding and following the main spectacle.

An official safety page has been published by NASA.

Stay safe and enjoy your experience of this astronomical marvel!


NASA. (2017, May 3). What Is an Eclipse? Retrieved July 27, 2017, from https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents.

Resnick, B. (2017, July 25). Total solar eclipse 2017: everything you need to know. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from https://www.vox.com/science-and-health.

Space Facts. (2017). Solar Eclipse Facts. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from http://space-facts.com/solar-eclipse.

Megan Hardie
GoldBio Staff Writer

Megan Hardie is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State
University’s Honors Arts and Sciences program. Her eclectic
interests have led to a rather unwieldly degree title: BS in
Anthropological Sciences and BA English Creative Writing,
Forensics Minor. She aspires to a PhD in Forensic Anthropology
and MA in English. In her career, she endeavors to apply the
qualities of literature to the scientific mode and vice versa,
integrating analysis with artistic expression.

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