It's "going to be the most observed, most filmed and photographed, most studied and documented, and, probably, the most appreciated of all eclipses in human history," said Lika Guhathakurta, lead scientist for the Living With a Star program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., last month at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
"A total solar eclipse, I would say, is widely regarded as probably one of the most breathtaking, amazing phenomena that you can observe from this planet Earth with your own eyes," Guhathakurta said. "With unaided eyes, you can actually see the outer atmosphere of the sun."
"All of a sudden, you know, you see a 360-degree sunset all around you," Guhathakurta said. "Stars appear. The temperature drops. You can actually hear chirping of grasshoppers. So, animals actually naturally go back to their nocturnal behavior."
Totality will be fleeting everywhere along the path; the area around Carbondale, Illinois, gets the most protracted view, at 2 minutes and 40 seconds, NASA officials said.
It's been 99 years since a total solar eclipse was so accessible to Americans from coast to coast, eclipse expert Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College in Massachusetts, told Space.com last year.
Image credit: eclipse.siu.edu