Visualizing the 2017 All-American Eclipse

  • Released Thursday, April 14, 2016
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On August 21, 2017, the Earth will cross the shadow of the Moon, creating a total solar eclipse. Eclipses happen about every six months, but this one is special. For the first time in almost 40 years, the path of the Moon's shadow passes through the continental United States.

The video features several visualizations of this event. From behind the Earth, we see the night sides of both the Earth and Moon and the umbral and penumbral shadow cones projecting from the Moon. We then see the tilted orbit of the Moon and the long, thin shadow cones striking the Earth. In the view from behind the Moon, we see the daylit far side of the Moon and the western hemisphere of the Earth, and from this vantage point, the outline of the shadow on the Earth is circular.

Most of the video shows a close-up view of the U.S. during the eclipse. Everyone there will see the Moon at least partially block the Sun, but those along the path of totality, shown in red, will see the Moon block the Sun entirely. The appearance of the Sun throughout the eclipse is shown for a number of locations in North America, with each Sun image oriented to the local horizon.

Some of the visualizations use extremely long telephoto lenses to visually compress the scene, but all of them are geometrically accurate and true to scale. Go here for more details about the calculations and for links to each of the visualizations.


Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Thursday, April 14, 2016.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, May 3, 2023 at 1:48 PM EDT.


This visualization can be found in the following series: