A solar eclipse is a rare, spectacular phenomenon. And if you live in the western part of the country, you may have one coming up.

When the moon lines up between the sun and the earth, a small line of shadow creates spontaneous night during a few minutes of midday. Birds and other animals will grow confused, and the otherwise invisible outer corona of the sun comes into sight to those wearing protective glasses.

A total solar eclipse will pass through the entire continental united states on August 21st, the first time since 1918. Sky enthusiasts all over the country are mobilizing for the opportunity. The eclipse phenomenon occurs because the moon is much closer to earth than the sun; the two objects thus appears the same size in the sky. However, the shadow (referred to in technical terms as the “path of totality”) is still very small and thin. So, if you want to see the eclipse in totality, you will probably have to travel.

With only a few minutes to see the phenomenon, long-distance travelers may not want to risk a cloudy day. Thankfully, NASA, NOAA, and other science organizations have put together a plethora of maps and data sources that can help us decide where to go.
Unfortunately, much of the country’s more populated, accessible eclipse areas are also often cloudy in summer. This can make otherwise scenic destinations like the Smoky Mountains a risky gamble. Some astronomical organizations have chosen to gather in Casper, Wyoming for its favorable weather, as well as easy access to uncrowded highways in the event of local clouds. Other ideal viewing areas are also in the rural west, including Madras, Oregon, and North Platte, Nebraska.