First total solar eclipse in U.S. in 38 years creates early buzz

Like cogs in a silent cosmic machine, planets and moons and stars circle seamlessly in the darkness, unnoticed, until their paths cross in a way that can't be ignored.

On Aug. 21, 2017, the moon will slip between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow that will create the first full solar eclipse over the U.S. in 38 years.

In a swath of country from South Carolina to Oregon, darkness will reign in the middle of the day for a full two minutes and 40 seconds, beginning at 1:25 p.m. in the Eastern time zone.

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“If you can only see one in your lifetime, the one to see is Aug. 21, 2017,” said Sam Storch, a retired astronomy professor and member of the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches. “This is something scheduled by the motions of objects in the heavens. There is nothing humans can do to make it come sooner or later. There is no do-over.”

Full solar eclipses viewable from populated areas are rare. The last full solar eclipse in the U.S. was in 1979, but it only covered five states, according to NASA.

West Palm Beach, FL...The moon obscurs a little more than 51 percent of the sun at 5:24 p.m. Friday during a partial eclipse. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone
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West Palm Beach, FL...The moon obscurs a little more than 51 percent of the sun at 5:24 p.m. Friday during a partial eclipse. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone

Palm Beach Post Staff photo by Allen Eyestone

People from all over the world plan to travel to areas within the 100-mile swath of totality to see the show. But reservations for hotels and car rentals are filling up fast, and many eclipse tour groups have “no vacancies” stamped on their websites.