More than a year out the Great American Eclipse, a total solar eclipse, is filling up hotel rooms across small town America.
The first total solar eclipse to cross American skies this century will take place on Aug. 21, 2017. While Alaska and Hawaii witnessed total solar eclipses in 1990 and 1991 respectively, the Great American Eclipse will be the first since 1979 to cross over the lower 48 states; and the next one won’t come until April 2024.
A solar eclipse takes place when the moon comes between Earth and the sun, casting a shadow across the planet. While there are several types of solar eclipses, a total solar eclipse means for a brief period of time the moon — which is dramatically smaller than the sun, but also much closer to Earth — will completely cover the sun, as opposed to partial or annular solar eclipses which produce a “ring of fire” of exposed light around the moon.
During a total solar eclipse, the sky becomes so dark for a period of time that stars become visible, diurnal birds and animals become confused and head towards their homes to sleep, nocturnal insects wake up and begin to chirp. Then suddenly the shadow of the moon passes, the skies brighten and everything reverts back to normal.
While solar eclipses are not entirely uncommon, the Great American Eclipse marks the first time since 1918 the shadow of the moon will literally sweep across America, coast to coast in a 167-mile wide swath at its largest point.
In preparation, tourists have begun booking hotel rooms across America, hoping to find the best view within what is known as the “path of totality,” which is the track the moon’s shadow will traverse across Earth
Even at over a year out, Wyoming hotel rooms have been completely reserved almost statewide, the Associated Press reports. A national astronomers convention has booked out Casper, Wyoming’s largest hotel and international guides have planned eclipse-based tours throughout the Yellowstone Park region.
Wyoming is not alone. Cities across America have been promoting the selling points of their individual eclipse attractions, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. North Platte, Neb., advertises itself as a safe and accessible viewing location amidst the Nebraska Sandhills, and Madras, Ore. claims that its location in the high desert region southeast of Portland gives it the best odds for good weather. Carbondale, Ill. is planning city-wide events and encouraging local businesses and organizations to promote eclipse-oriented activities for visitors, the Southern Illinoisan reports.
Eclipse tourism is not limited to this particular eclipse in America. For years travelers have planned their destinations around notable solar eclipses, The Wall Street Journal reports. Total solar eclipses take place in a different location across the globe about every 18 months with tourists often paying high prices to consistently witness the event in a different place.
A total solar eclipse that took place on March 9th of this year in Indonesia brought an influx of scientists and eclipse-seekers to cities across the country, the Guardian reports. Even an Alaska Air flight adjusted the route of its flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu so passengers could witness the Indonesian eclipse.
For the Great American Eclipse, while locations across the country may be competing as desirable destinations for viewing the event, the path of totality will actually sweep over a large portion of the nation, creating excellent perspectives across the United States — weather providing.