PSA: You Should Make Travel Plans Now To See 2017's Rare Solar Eclipse

Photo: Phillip Jones/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images.
As of today, we are exactly six months out from the biggest astronomical event of the year. On August 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States for the first time in 99 years and it is going to be lit.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the once-in-a-lifetime event, you need to start planning now. For many, this will mean taking a three-day weekend and traveling to a spot that falls within the narrow path of totality, where you will see the full effect of the eclipse as the moon completely covers the sun.

Here's what you need to know when deciding where to go for the best views. If you're in the northeast or southwest, you'll have to travel the farthest. According to Space.com, the eclipse's path will begin in Oregon, and end in South Carolina, passing through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina.

The most ideal spots for viewing the eclipse are along that path, in the areas where the period of totality lasts the longest. NASA has mapped out those locations on an interactive Google map here. The Great American Eclipse recommends 10 spots along the path for camping out to watch the main event: Madras, Oregon; Snake River Valley, Idaho; Casper, Wyoming; the Sandhills of western Nebraska; St. Joseph, Missouri; Carbondale, Illinois; Hopkinsville, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and Columbia, South Carolina.

Out of all of those locations, Hopkinsville marks the point of longest eclipse duration, providing you with views for up to two minutes, 41.2 seconds. But you'll probably have to be flexible with your accommodations. When we searched for availability at the Holiday Inn and Best Western in Hopkinsville for August 20 to August 22, there were no open rooms. Gulp. There are still openings for a three-night stay beginning on August 19 at the Comfort Inn in Madisonville, Kentucky, which is about a 44 mile drive from Hopkinsville and may be your best bet.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick a spot and book, stat! Just don't forget to buy certified glasses to protect your eyes if you do plan on watching the spectacle.


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