Total solar eclipse fever is raging as millions prepare for an astronomical event that hasn’t cut across the US in 99 years.
On August 21, the moon will slide in front of the sun and cast a dark, moving shadow on America. Not every location will see the solar eclipse at the same time, however, or witness the same phenomena – including totality, which is when the moon fully blocks the sun to reveal the star’s ghost-like corona.
To help show what, when, and how you might experience the 2017 total solar eclipse, Business Insider spoke to Michael Zeiler, a cartographer at Esri, a mapping data and technology company. Zeiler has chased eclipses for 26 years and is a member of the American Astronomical Society’s task force on the 2017 total solar eclipse.
“The first time I made a solar eclipse map was for a cruise in 2009,” Zeiler told Business Insider. “I didn’t have the map I wanted for that trip, so I made it. It was a huge hit on my ship, because it was full of 900 other eclipse chasers. I’ve been making hundreds of maps ever since.”
Over the past several years, Zeiler has compiled eclipse-related roadway, population, weather, and other data – plus analyses of that information – into convenient maps at his website, GreatAmericanEclipse.com.
Zeiler has created dozens of maps – including one that shows the entire path of totality as a 10-foot-long poster (if printed) – but we’ve included some of his favorites here.
This map shows the entire coverage area of the solar eclipse. “The partial eclipse will span five continents,” Zeiler said.
Zeiler estimated that 12.2 million people live in the roughly 2,800-mile-long, 70-mile-wide path of the umbra: the moon’s darkest shadow.
But many Americans are on the move to the path. Zeiler created this map to show the time it’d take to drive to totality based on where you live — at least without any traffic.
And traffic is shaping up to be a nightmare, as Zeiler has predicted with this map of “drivesheds” — the most-traveled paths to the eclipse, based on population and proximity to totality.
“People should not casually expect to drive down on the morning of the eclipse,” Zeiler said.
Weather will be a crucial factor for eclipse chasers on the ground; just one stray cloud could obscure totality, which lasts only a couple of minutes.
Zeiler updates his cloudiness forecast for the solar eclipse once a day, and Business Insider is mirroring his updates here.
This map is an informative one-stop-shop: It shows what times the eclipse will peak (green), how long totality will last, where it will be at maximum (orange ovals in totality), and what partial-eclipse watchers will see (sun-moon diagrams), where, and when (yellow lines).
Zeiler also created more detailed time-based maps. They show when, in local and universal time zones, the moon will first touch the sun…
When the eclipse will peak…
…And when the moon will cease to block the sun, ending the eclipse.
Those curious about which portion of the sun will be blocked should consult this map. A magnitude of 1.0 means a person is in the path of totality (100% blockage) whereas 0.5 magnitude means the sun is half-blocked by area.
Zeiler used his sun-blocking analysis to inform this creative map. It shows what planet or moon you’d be on, based on the brightness of sunlight it receives — and you receive, too, during the eclipse. (Washington DC is somewhere between Mars and Jupiter.)
Zeiler points out that totality touches only the US, and no other nations, in 2017 and 1776 — the birthday of the nation.
If you’re going to miss seeing totality in person, this map of the US on April 8, 2024, is a keeper. That’s when the next total solar eclipse will cut across the nation, this time from south to north.
Zeiler also created this map for extreme planners. It shows the all the remaining eclipses of the US in the 21st century.
And this map shows all the 21st-century total solar eclipse around the world. If you want to see them all, prepare to travel the globe about once every 18 months.