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The Great American Eclipse is a year out, but viewing spots are already being snapped up

It’s getting rough out there.

BEC CREW
23 AUG 2016
 

On 21 August 2017, Americans will experience something for the first time since 1979 - a total solar eclipse, which will cast a massive shadow across the continental US, sweeping from Oregon to South Carolina in the space of around 2.5 minutes.

The event is going to be seriously weird, with a shadow tracing a narrow 13,840-km (8,600-mile) line from coast to coast, turning day into night for all those in its path. And that path is getting harder and harder to stand in, with people already snapping up hotel rooms in the shadow line.

 

While the eclipse will be cool no matter where you're viewing from in the US, those in the 112-km-wide (70-mile) path will experience totality, which means the Moon will completely block your view of the Sun. 

Depending on how 'off to the side' you are, you'll still see an eclipse, but you won't get totality. For example, out in Seattle, the Moon is expected to block out 92 percent of the Sun.

In terms of picking the best possible viewing spot, Madras, Oregon has been singled out as the place to be, with the city experiencing relatively little light pollution, and a position right in the middle of the shadow line at the beginning of the eclipse.

According to the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, the Moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun at 9:06am, and by 10:19am, people in Madras will see the Sun obscured for up to 2.5 minutes.

But good luck finding a hotel room if you want to make a day of it. Madras officials expect some 30,000 tourists to visit during the eclipse, but they only have 325 hotel rooms within city limits. Some rooms have been booked out by international tourists for a year already.

 

"Will O’Daniel, assistant manager at the Inn at Cross Keys Station in Madras, said he was advising people interested in watching the eclipse in Oregon to go as far away as Burns, with Madras sold out, and Redmond, Prineville, and Bend filling up as well," Stephen Hamway reports for The Bulletin.

Alan Boyle from Geekwire tried unsuccessfully to get a room in Madras, but said if you hit up Oregon Solarfest Music Festivalwhich will be held the weekend before the eclipse, you could score a reservation for a 'dry' campsite or RV spot.

"On the west side of the Oregon Cascades, Salem and Corvallis are the largest cities in the path of totality - and Expedia says at least 90 percent of the rooms in that vicinity are already booked. Eighty-five percent of the rooms in Portland are reportedly booked, for heaven’s sake!" says Boyle.

"The booking rates are similar for other cities in the eclipse zone, such as St. Joseph, Missouri; Nashville, Tennessee; and Columbia, South Carolina. The farther you get from the zone, the easier it is to find a room."

His advice is to ultimately try anywhere you can, and don't expect to just rock up to a park in the totality path - most places are going to be taking formal reservations for that, so do your homework.

But ultimately, wherever you are in the US, you're going to see something spectacular on 21 August 2017, so don't stress too much. Remember, nobody owns the sky, but just make sure you bring your eclipse glasses.

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