Earth will have its final total solar eclipse… in 600 million years

The moon passes in front of the sun as seen from the perspective of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory in the early morning of Sept 24, 2014, from 2:50 a.m. to 3:20 a.m. EDT. Credit: NASA/SDO

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A rare United States coast-to-coast total solar eclipse on August 21, with a path of totality starting near Portland, Oregon, and ending near Charleston, South Carolina, will offer a golden opportunity for scientists to study a full eclipse of the sun from many locations and perspectives, including local weather changes.

In the Columbus area on Monday, August, 21, a total solar eclipse will commence at 1:04pm and end at 3:52pm. At the midpoint, between 86 and 88 percent of the sun will be blocked by the moon in the greater Columbus area—compared to the path of 100 percent coverage that will arc south of Ohio through western Kentucky and eastern Tennessee, with totality lasting an average of two and a half minutes.

Total solar eclipses occur on average around the world every one to two years, but because 70 percent of Earth is covered by ocean, most are not readily observable. When the celestial bodies align in just the right position, we are treated to an impressive, relatively rare spectacle, weather permitting, of course.

“The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, and the sun is 400 times farther away from Earth than the moon, so they essentially look the same,” said Don Stevens, Technical and Program Assistant at Perkins Observatory, Ohio Wesleyan University, in Delaware, Ohio.

MORE: What will the eclipse look like in your state?

Scientists note that we should enjoy these events while they last—the final solar eclipse will occur around 600 million years from now, as the moon slowly retreats from Earth at the rate of a little more than an inch annually. At some point in the far distant future, the sublime alignment between the sun, moon and earth that allows the moon to block out the sun will no longer happen.

Remember, you should never look directly at the sun under any circumstances, and safe viewing requires approved solar-eclipsed glasses that afford complete protection to avoid the risk of permanent eye damage.

“We’re distributing (selling) eclipse viewing “glasses” through Half Price Books,” said Tom Burns, Director of Perkins Observatory. “Our glasses include two color brochures that cover a basic description of what’s happening, safety information; cool but safe alternative methods for eclipse observing.”

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