First total solar eclipse in 99 years to sweep across America

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The event, coined the "Great American Eclipse," is inspiring a surge in tourism in the United States

 

The first total solar eclipse to sweep North America in nearly a century will march across the continent August 21, casting a shadow over millions of people from coast to coast.

The event, coined the "Great American Eclipse," is inspiring a surge in tourism in the United States, along with sky-high prices for travel to key viewing spots and a rise in scams such as counterfeit solar eclipse glasses.

Celebrations are planned nationwide, including weddings timed to coincide with the eclipse and a live Caribbean cruise ship performance of the 1983 hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by the singer herself, Bonnie Tyler.

In a nation that is increasingly divided along political lines, some expressed hope that fascination for this spectacular phenomenon would offer people a chance to unite.

"A large swath of the population will be able to easily see this eclipse," astronomer James Webb at Florida International University told.

"There are plenty of people out there in this day and age that are denying science, so this is an opportunity to show what we really know about the solar system."

The total eclipse, when the Moon fully blocks light from the Sun, will be visible from a 113-kilometre path that carves through 14 US states. A partial eclipse begins on the northwest coast of the United States shortly after 9am (1600 GMT). The total eclipse reaches the western coastline of Oregon at 10:16am Pacific time (1716 GMT), then forges a diagonal path, exiting over South Carolina in the afternoon.

While the darkest shadows will fall over this "path of totality," a partial eclipse extends far beyond it, and may be visible as far north as Alberta, Canada and as far south as Brazil, weather permitting. Even Britain and western France may catch an evening glimpse of a tiny sliver of the eclipse at sunset. "They'll see a very shallow, partial eclipse," said Royal Astronomy Society acting director Robert Massey.

The last time an eclipse crossed from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean was on June 8, 1918, when a total eclipse was visible from Washington to Florida.

Experts warn that looking directly at the eclipse can burn the retina, possibly causing lasting blind spots.

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