On Monday, August 21st, the United States will experience a total solar eclipse. Skies across the country will darken as the moon covers the sun for an extended period of time. Because this historic event has been all over the headlines this past month, we decided to dig into the data and take a look at some of the facts and figures surrounding the eclipse.
First things first – how close are you to the ‘path of totality?’ This is the 70-mile-wide shadow caused by the moon; only those within its boundaries will experience a total eclipse. The visualization below shows the path of the August 21st eclipse. Check out the dashboard, and zoom in on your hometown!
Now for some historical context. The last time a total eclipse crossed the United States from coast to coast was in June of 1918, nearly a hundred years ago. When this month’s eclipse was dubbed “the Great American Eclipse,” we decided to dive into some historical data from NASA and Wikipedia to try to find out if this is truly the largest solar eclipse that many of us will see in our lifetime.
Our effort wasn’t meant to take anything away from what promises to be a memorable event later this month (after all, any eclipse is an amazing experience), but when we plugged the data into MicroStrategy, we quickly realized that in the coming years we will experience a few eclipses that are expected to far exceed this month’s phenomenon.
Let me share a bit of what we found.
The bubble chart below shows all of the total solar eclipses that have occurred or will occur in the 21st century. They are plotted based on a few important factors. The first is the width of the path in miles. We wanted to understand just how much ground the darkness will cover; the higher up the dot is on the chart, the wider the darkness is in miles. The second is the duration of that darkness in seconds; the bigger the dot, the longer the darkness lasts.
As you look at the visualization, it’s important to keep in mind these are happening all around the world. The white dots represent a total solar eclipse visible somewhere else around the world (i.e. not in the United States). The red dots are total solar eclipses visible somewhere in the United States. That tiny bright green dot is this month’s eclipse.
So while this month’s eclipse is exciting to experience, there will be two eclipses in the next 30 years that dwarf it in terms of both size and duration (including one in 2045 that's almost three times as big!). Chalk up another one to the wonders of the universe and the ability of data to add perspective.
Ready to start planning your travel for the next two eclipses? We've got you covered! Check out the full dashboard to see the paths of the 2024 and 2045 total solar eclipses (represented by black and red markers respectively), and then go ahead and book yourself a hotel...it's never too early, right?
*Banner Image By Lutfar Rahman Nirjhar [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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