Total Solar Eclipse: Americans prepare for once in a lifetime experience

There is celestial certainty that the sky will go dark - but less precision about the weather ITV News US Correspondent Dan Rivers reports

Words by US Correspondent Dan Rivers and Washington News Editor Jonathan Wald

It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. A total eclipse will plunge a narrow path of the United States into total darkness later today, as the moon passes in front of the sun for a few minutes.

This will be the longest eclipse in 100 years with a central duration of four and a half minutes.

Preparations are underway in a narrow swathe across the country, but a much wider band will experience a partial eclipse.

In fact, everyone in the USA will see the sky darkening. The effect will be lessened the further you are from the band of totality.

There is celestial certainty that the sky will go dark, but less precision about the weather, which may spoil the view in places normally associated with clear blue skies, like Dallas.

Storms are forecast there, which may obscure the moment the corona of the sun is visible behind the moon.

The moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse in 2017. Credit: AP

There are a few places which seem more likely to have a clear view, like Indianapolis, Indiana where a huge number of spectators will gather in the largest capacity sporting venue in the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which normally hosts the annual Indy 500 motor race.

They’ll have the chance both to watch race cars on the circuit and the moment which has drawn visitors to this city, the total eclipse.

Here, the city will be plunged into darkness for 3 minutes and 46 seconds. Residents would have to wait another 129 years for this to happen in the city again.

A map showing some of the main cities under the eclipse path. Credit: AP

Before totality begins at 3.06 pm ET, the sky will start to dull, as the partial eclipse takes hold.

I have viewed an eclipse before in Cornwall in 1999, and I remember the effect it had on the natural world, as sea birds flocked to land, thinking night had come early and sheep in a nearby field similarly followed each other towards a farm.

The plunge in temperature is also noticeable as the sun’s warmth is abruptly cut off for a few minutes. Here in Indianapolis hotel rooms are rapidly booking up as people change plans and head here where they hope the skies will afford a good view.

Millions of people in North America are preparing for a total solar eclipse on Monday, but how much of it will we be able to see in the UK?

It’s estimated 32 million people live along the 115-mile-wide path of totality in the USA. The moon’s shadow will trace an arc from Mexico to Newfoundland.

In fact, it will also be visible out in the remote Pacific Ocean, even as far away as the Line Islands in Kiribati where it will be April 9, even though they are east of the international date line.

So if you like, it will start tomorrow and end today!

If you haven’t managed to book a trip to the Americas in time, don’t worry: there’ll be another American eclipse….in twenty years.

And if you are in Dallas and it’s cloudy, you’ll have to wait until 2345 to experience another total eclipse.

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